Deputy Assistant Secretary Yee Suggests Elections May Eventually Be Postponed

During a visit to Kosovo, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Hoyt Brian Yee gave an interview with the Kosovar Radio and Television addressing the political situation in Kosovo and Albania.

Yee advised Kosovo politicians against holding early elections, a possibility which has started to be discussed in different political and public contexts.

During the interview, he made a reference to elections in Albania, heeding politicians not to block elections, expressing however doubts whether they will be held as scheduled.

Our advice for the leadership of Kosovo is to confront the challenges, not to delay, not to postpone, and not to hold preliminary elections. This is something about which we encourage all the leaders in the region, now that we’re speaking of it. It is promising sign that several countries, Albania for example – Albanian will hold, or at least should hold, regular elections in June, on June 18 I believe. Over there we encourage the opposition and all parties to fully participate in the elections and not to boycott them. And if there are problems, we believe that the opposition and the government need to have a dialogue to solve those problems in a way that the elections are free and fair.

While Secretary Yee is clear that the elections should not be boycotted and have to be held on the determined date, with the immediate self-correction from “will hold” to “should hold” seems to suggest that the US government is at least preparing for the possibility that the elections might be postponed.

Hoyt Brian Yee, who is a career diplomat in the foreign service of the US State Department has served since 2013 as deputy of Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland, who handed in her resignation after the election of Donald Trump. The person that will fill Nuland’s position will be the main political decision maker in relation to Albania.

As Albania only has little weight in the priorities of the US administration, the US policies for Albania are drafted and decided by a small number of civil servants in the US administration. In practical terms, the highest decision making level is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, who comes fifth in the hierarchy of the US State Department.

The nomination of the new Assistant Secretary is expected to take several weeks if not months, because the confirmation process of the nomination by the Senate and President Trump is going very slow and there are many other positions with higher priority that are still empty and without candidates.

Until the new Assistant Secretary has been confirmed, the US political decision making process regarding daily issues in Albania will be very constrained. Deputy Assistant Yee and Ambassador Donald Lu represent the continuation of the policy of the former US State Department, which in recent years has focused mainly on the drafting and the implementation of the judicial reform, paying less attention to the drug problem, organized crime, government corruption, freedom of the media, etc.

But the change in the political direction of the White House and the State Department is expected to bring new priorities and political positions to the Balkans, at least as regards the role of the ambassadors and USAID. The fight against drugs and crime is expected to be intensified, especially because General Attorney Sessions is one of the most anti-marijuana politicians in the country. It may also be expected that the activity of the OPDAT mission will be refocused on its official mission, which is assistance in the fight against drugs and organized crime, after having mainly assisted in the judicial reform the last few years.

Because these new policies are still be fully drafted and their implementation has not started, there has been a paralysis which can also be observed in the statements of Ambassador Lu, who from a very active and outspoken figure has turned into a much more reserved and moderate in his political interventions and positions.