From: Die Morina van Uijtregt
Kosovo Marks a Significant Increase of Voting Applications from Diaspora

Central Election Commission of Kosovo (CEC) registered in its system 151,000 applications from those living abroad who are willing to exercise their right to vote on snap parliamentary elections of February 14.

It shows a significant increase comparing with the number of applicants for the snap parliamentary elections of 2019 when about 40 thousand applications were submitted at CEC.

Several factors have increased the rise in the number of applications from the diaspora to vote.

“More access to information on the right to vote and growing interest from political parties in meeting the needs of those living abroad has driven those living outside of Kosovo to participate in elections,” says Lirim Krasniqi, the director of Kosovo NGO Germin, which deals with issues related to the diaspora.

Krasniqi told Exit News that political parties are showing more interest in the diaspora knowing its influence in the economy through remittances, and also from the pandemic period when diaspora tourism was lacking during the summer.

Kosovo’s diaspora has no right to vote in the Embassies or Consulates, but instead must go through administrative verification procedures and mail their votes to CEC.

An initiative to amend the Law on Elections by enabling the voting in Embassies and Consulates, was taken in 2018 but could not be approved by Parliament as it dissolved, twice, before it was put to vote.

Krasniqi said that it did not happen earlier because CEC did not show any interest.

CEC received criticism about the decision to verify applications for voter registration outside Kosovo via phone call. Among others, this decision says that CEC “will reject the applications of those who do not answer the phone call at the time when the CEC calls them for verification”.

“We think that a measure applied to all creates conditions for the violation of the right to vote, which falls within the framework of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. There may be times when a person for objective reasons is not available on the phone and it can cost them the loss of the right to vote,” Krasniqi said.

He adds that CEC had sufficient possibilities to verify applications from abroad, as well as could ask for investigation on suspicious cases “via phone call too”.

All this, according Krasniqi might cause delays in the whole process, as the voting for diaspora starts on February 2, while the verification process should end at least 24 hours before that date.

Krasniqi insists that the ideal way of voting would be directly in Embassies and Consulates, adding that CEC should not complain about the lack of capacities.

“If CEC needs additional resources, they can request from the Parliament which would approve an extra budget. When complaining about a lack of capacity, it means that there is no proper planning” he says.

Despite the increase of applications, Krasniqi says it does not mean that will all be translated into votes.

“From the last elections we have seen that from the number of applications to the number of valid votes, it is a very complicated process and results in far fewer valid votes than initial applications,” he says.

Another problem according to Krasniqi is the short time of mailing votes.

“There are only nine days to send the votes via mail in the CEC’s addressee. According to the law, votes should be delivered 24 hours before the elections day,” he adds.

The spokesperson of CEC, Valmir Elezi told Exit News they are continuing to review applications, enter data into the system and assess the legal capacity of applicants.

“Based on the data of the noon report today (Thursday), about 151,000 applications have been entered in the system, of which about 50,500 have been approved, while in the current status of rejection are about 10,600 applications,” Elezi said.

He added that around 42,000 phone call have been realized so far, of which about 34,000 applicants confirmed their data while about 8000 did not answer the phone call but will be contacted again.

Snap parliamentary elections in Kosovo are set to be held on February 14 following a decision of the Constitutional Court which ruled that the voting in of the government was in violation with Constitution, due to a vote of an already convicted MP.