Kosovo's PM Election To See Battle Of Ex-Guerrilla, Economist And 'Kosovo's Che'

In Kosovo's parliamentary election on Sunday, a former guerrilla commander will take on an economist and a popular former student leader once known as 'Kosovo's Che Guevara'.

Kosovo's PM Election To See Battle Of Ex-Guerrilla, Economist And 'Kosovo's Che'

Ramush Haradinaj, an ex-guerilla commander, is running to be Kosovo's prime minister.

Kosovo:  In Kosovo's parliamentary election on Sunday, a former guerrilla commander will take on an economist compared to Emmanuel Macron and a popular former student leader once known as "Kosovo's Che Guevara".


Nicknamed "Rambo" by his comrades-in-arms for his muscular physique and military prowess, 48-year-old Ramush Haradinaj is considered a hero by many ethnic Albanians in Kosovo but as a war criminal by Serbs.

A commander in the pro-independence Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the 1998-1999 conflict against Serbian forces, he went on to become prime minister in 2004.

But he resigned soon after when he was indicted for war crimes by a UN tribunal in The Hague, which eventually acquitted him.

Although his party, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), is not expected to win much more than 10 percent of the vote, Haradinaj has formed a coalition with the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) founded by President Hashim Thaci, another former rebel leader.

Several ex-guerrilla commanders now holding senior positions in the two parties could be indicted by a new court dealing specifically with accusations of war crimes committed by KLA members.

Haradinaj's candidacy came just weeks after his release from France, where he had been held for four months on the basis of a Serbian arrest warrant over alleged war crimes. French judicial authorities eventually rejected Belgrade's extradition request.

One of his major election promises is that "Serbia will no longer have a role in Kosovo".

He wants Serbia to recognise Kosovo's independence before moving forward with the negotiation process to improve ties with Belgrade, launched in 2011 and brokered by the European Union.

The Man Like Macron

An economics professor and a member of the conservative Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), 42-year-old Avdullah Hoti has been likened to new French President Emmanuel Macron and is a protege of outgoing Prime Minister Isa Mustafa.

Hoti has so far always been in the shadow of his political mentor, serving as his deputy when Mustafa was mayor of the capital Pristina and as finance minister in Mustafa's government.

A founding member of their LDK party was "father of the nation" Ibrahim Rugova, Kosovo's first president.

Other parties in the Hoti-led coalition include Alternative, a newly-established group led by civil society leaders wanting to try their luck in politics, and the New Kosovo Alliance of construction magnate Behgjet Pacolli, believed to be the richest Kosovo Albanian.

Travelling throughout the country to promote his platform, bespectacled Hoti has tried to overcome his soft academic approach and apply a more robust political style, promising to tackle corruption and organised crime.

"June 11 will be a referendum for the future of Kosovo," he told AFP, stressing the importance of moving towards EU integration and preventing Kosovo's worrying brain drain, as youngsters flee poverty for other countries.

'Kosovo's Che'

At the age of 42, Albin Kurti is no longer the student leader who in 1997 organised non-violent protests against Serbian rule in Kosovo. His activities saw him put behind bars for more than two years and nicknamed Kosovo's Che Guevara.

But while the curly-haired radical has traded his revolutionary style for a suit, the protests of his movement-turned-party Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) continue to put Pristina under a state of siege.

The opposition group combines the rhetoric of the left, advocating a struggle against corrupt elites, with hard line nationalism.

It is the only party that advocates unification with Albania, an idea that would deeply disturb the balance in the fragile Balkans that was painfully established by Western powers after the bloody break-up of the former Yugoslavia.

Kurti and his allies have thrown tear gas in parliament to prevent the ratification of a border deal with neighbouring Montenegro, and to protest an association granting more autonomy to Kosovo's Serbs.

Following a break up between the LDK and PDK, the two largest parties which were previously allied in the ruling coalition, Vetevendosje could become a kingmaker after Sunday's vote.

Kurti has repeatedly said he is "ready to serve the people".

But an alliance with the PDK is unlikely as Vetevendosje considers Thaci's party responsible for corruption.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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