The Unruly Vassal: Election in Kosovo Brings US-Ousted Radical Kurti Back to Power

If preliminary results of the vote in Kosovo are accurate, the hardline "Self-Determination" (Vetevendosje) party of former PM Albin Kurti has won in a landslide, crushing the formerly dominant LDK and the two parties founded by KLA chieftains. While Kurti seems to be enjoying favorable coverage from major global outlets, the Empire has been strangely silent on his prospects – and will ultimately be the one to call the shots.

Serbia’s renegade province, which has styled itself as an independent state with Empire’s support since 2008, held early elections on Saturday. Preliminary results show Vetevendosje (LVV) getting a rather astonishing 47.85% of the vote, simply stomping all over Hashim Thaci’s PDK (17.41%) and Ramush Haradinaj’s AAK (7.43%) but also the LDK (13%), a party founded by longtime ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova.

All of them were darlings of the West at one point or another. Rugova died in 2006, however. Haradinaj has been indicted for war crimes twice, only to be acquitted when witnesses mysteriously turned up dead. Thaci is in The Hague right now, facing war crimes charges levied by the US-backed Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague. He was replaced as president in November 2020 by Vjosa Osmani, then a MP for LDK – and now the newest ally of Kurti.

Whether the Empire cleared the field for them, or they simply seized the opportunity, Kurti and Osmani have been on a media blitz in the West, from appearing on CNN to penning op-eds in the Times of London and giving interviews to the Guardian.

The 45-year-old Kurti and 38-year-old Osmani are playing the angle of being youthful reformers. Their shtick for both domestic and foreign consumption is that Kosovo is being held back by the twin scourges of corruption and Serbia – which still refuses to recognize the renegade province’s independence.

Kosovians who cast their ballots for LVV may have forgotten that for almost a decade of NATO occupation their leaders told them independence will fix everything. It didn’t. It’s now been twelve years, and things haven’t gotten any better. Hence the pivot to corruption targeting the patronage system run by the old guard, but also a harder line on Serbia, as Kurti has a bit of a reputation of being a firebrand in that department.

Ironically, his bullheadedness is what got him deposed after less than six months as PM. He was ousted in March by a vote of no confidence – reportedly with the approval of US Ambassador Philip Kosnett. His reaction to the election consisted of standard diplomatic platitudes about democracy, peace, prosperity. etc.

The reason the Empire wanted Kurti gone is that his hard line on Serbia was throwing sand in the gears of the Trump administration’s effort to negotiate yet another one of its signature deals benefiting Israel.

When it was finally signed, at the White House in September 2020, the agreement on "economic normalization" with Serbia was far short of recognition, but moved the ball far down the field in that direction. Having Serbian leader Aleksandar Vucic reward Israel for recognizing Kosovo by pledging to move his embassy to Jerusalem was an extra field goal, if you will.

Empire’s trouble is that Kurti has never had patience for such finesse, and his starting position is unconditional surrender by Belgrade. Or, as he told AFP, "reciprocity, equality cannot be the end result… it must be the initial point" of the talks.

His endpoint is a bit less clear, but a decade ago it was unification with Albania proper – and it got him the endorsement of none other than William Walker, the US operative who fabricated the "Racak massacre" that served as the pretext for NATO’s 1999 invasion.

Try squaring that with the message Empire’s top diplomat Anthony Blinken sent to Serbia on Monday, that "reaching a comprehensive agreement centered on mutual recognition will require flexibility and a willingness on all sides to compromise." Good luck getting any of that with Kurti in charge!

Kurti’s intransigence may also complicate his path to power internally. He needs 61 seats for a majority government, but he "made it clear there would be no coalition with the main losing opponents," presumably the LDK and PDK, per Al Jazeera. That means he would need all ten seats allocated to various ethnic minorities, or the ten set aside for Serbs – which seems, shall we say, highly unlikely given his history. He could try taking on Haradinaj as the junior partner, but that would also undermine his message about rooting out corruption and a clean break with the old guard. Plus Our Man Ramush is a dangerous foe to cross.

Read more: Kosovo: A decade of dependence

Then again, none of that seems particularly relevant, for whatever the form of the Kosovian government, it’s the Empire that will end up calling the shots, just as it has for the past 20 years. The purpose of the vassal principality all along has been to break and neutralize Serbia – and therefore Russia, in the minds of imperial policy planners – with little concern to what happens with ethnic Albanians in the process.

Speaking of which, the election results strongly suggest there are nowhere near two million of them, as Kosovians keep claiming. Of the almost 1.8 million registered voters, only 800,000 or so bothered to cast their ballots – a turnout of some 47 percent. One would think in an election of such importance that number would be higher.

As to what happens next, keep your eyes on the ambassadors. As always.

Nebojsa Malic is a Serbian-American journalist, blogger and translator, who wrote a regular column for from 2000 to 2015, and is now senior writer at RT. Follow him on Telegram @TheNebulator and on Twitter @NebojsaMalic.

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for debuted in November 2000.