It’s deja vu.

No sooner had EULEX balked about the high number of Kosovo politicians under criminal probe running in the past weekend’s elections than we again had Ramush Haradinaj being given leave by the Hague to participate in the elections. If this were happening anywhere else but Kosovo, it would read like satire:

Number of Kosovo Candidates Under Probes Causes Concern (Nov. 23)

“Kosovo’s Election Commission says candidates can only be disqualified from December’s poll if they have been found guilty.”

Senior international actors and Kosovo-based organisations have criticised the number of politicians running for office in December’s general election who are under suspicion of offences ranging from war crimes to corruption.

One member of the Central Election Commission, Fadil Maloku, voted against last Thursday’s decision of the Commission to certify the candidates’ list, saying they should have awaited the legal outcome facing some of the candidates under investigation. “The law has been violated. Candidates have been certified without any decision or opinion from the legal office,” Maloku said.

The head of the Commission, Valdete Daka, disputed this, saying the law only banned candidates who had been found guilty of criminal offences, not people under probes. “No candidates can be certified if they’ve been found guilty of a criminal offence… in the past three years,” Daka explained.

Two of the ten top candidates of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, the party of the Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci, are under criminal investigation. One is the Minister of Transport, Fatmir Limaj. He has been under an investigation by the EU rule-of-law mission, EULEX, since April 2010, suspected of corruption.

The other is Azem Syla, a former Kosovo Liberation Army commander. He has also been under a EULEX investigation since a self-declared assassin, Nazim Blaca, mentioned his name in November 2009 when he went public over his crimes.

Blaca admitted having once worked for Kosovo’s unofficial secret service, SHIK, and mentioned several names in connection with SHIK’s activities, including Syla’s. Limaj and Syla [are] four[th] and fifth respectively on the PDK’s list of candidates.

Thaci’s party is not the only one with candidates facing possible trial. The leader of the opposition Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, leads his party’s list in December although he is awaiting re-trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, ICTY, in The Hague.

Another party leader seeking a seat in parliament in December is the former speaker of the Kosovo assembly, Nexhat Daci, head of the Democratic League of Dardania. On November 10, a Pristina court found him guilty of abusing his official post and gave him an 18 months’ suspended jail sentence.

Andy Sparkes, deputy head of EULEX, said that while everyone accepted the principle that people were innocent until proven guilty, the selection of some candidates sent an unfortunate signal.

“Where it’s known that someone is under an investigation or judicial procedure, it would be better and more honourable, and better for the reputation of Kosovo, if they didn’t present themselves for public office until they had cleared their names,” Sparkes said.

Avni Zogiani, head of the anti-corruption organisation Cohu, said that the judicial system in Kosovo was too corrupt to keep people with criminal records out of pubic life. “Where is the ethics in our society today?” he asked.

ICTY grants Haradinaj temporary provisional release

THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Dec 8 (Tanjug) - The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) granted Wednesday temporary provisional release to former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) Ramus Haradinaj over the winter court recess from December 17, 2010 until Friday January 14, 2011.

Similar request, however, was denied to his associate Ljahi Brahimaj, the ICTY said.

Haradinaj had requested the temporary provisional release as his wife is expected to give birth to their child around the middle of January 2011.

The Prosecution opposed the motion, saying that granting it would pose a risk to the integrity of the proceedings.

The Prosecution argued that witness intimidation remains a prevalent feature in Kosovo, and that Haradinaj still remained a highly prominent figure in the region.

The Trial Chamber, however, said that Haradinaj would not pose a danger to any victim, witness or other person, while it assessed Brahimaj, if released, could pose such a threat.

The Prosecution asserted that the prominence of the accused would be heightened during the forthcoming election period, recommending that Haradinaj and Brahimaj should not be granted provisional release in the period before the December 12 elections, in which Haradinaj’s party, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, also runs.

Haradinaj, Idriz Baljaj and Brahimaj will be partly re-tried over charges for intimidation of witnesses.

Gee, this conversation doesn’t sound familiar from 2007 at all.

The results of the elections: Kosovar PM declares election victory

The Prime Minister of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, has claimed victory in the disputed Balkan region’s first general election since it declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

The exit poll, conducted by the Kosovo-based Gani Bobi Centre, showed Mr Thaci’s party won 31 per cent of the vote, while its former coalition partner the Democratic League of Kosovo had 25 per cent. […]

Meanwhile, as I blogged last month, former U.S. diplomat and CIA operative William Walker backed the most radical party — Self-determination — which wants unification with Albania and is the fastest-growing party in Kosovo, especially among the young, who seem to prefer ‘radical’ to the corrupt cadre of aging ‘former’ radicals. While none of the three sources reporting last month on Walker’s support for Self-determination was mainstream, it has now caught the attention of the UK Guardian:

Former US diplomat backs Albanian nationalist in Kosovo elections

“William Walker, who exposed a Serbian ‘massacre’ in the 1990s, is supporting Albin Kurti’s party which wants unity with Albania”

A veteran US diplomat whose declaration of a “massacre” by Serb forces paved the way for the Nato bombing campaign in 1999 has surprised observers by campaigning in the Kosovo elections for a radical nationalist party led by a former student rebel.

William Walker, 75, who is revered as a hero in Kosovo for leading the international monitoring mission that reported the slaughter of 45 Kosovo Albanians in the village of Racak, has appeared on the campaign trail in support of the Self-Determination party.

The movement, which has been known for covering UN and EU buildings with graffiti and clashing with police during demonstrations, has growing support among Kosovo’s young population.

In a move Walker conceded would be perceived by former colleagues in the state department as “going rogue”, he has endorsed Albin Kurti, a radical 35-year-old hostile to the “colonial” presence of the international community in Kosovo.

Kurti, whose party is expected to come third [it did] in the elections, has called for a moratorium on privatisation of national enterprises and the unification of Kosovo with Albania to the south. His rallies have proved popular, with supporters draping themselves in the red Albanian flag. Kurti’s party has also had the most effective, Facebook-driven, internet presence, with a Facebook-driven campaign that has dwarfed those of its rivals. Kosovo has relatively high levels of internet availability for the Balkans, and one YouTube video of Kurti defying Serb captors when he was jailed after the war has been viewed more than 40,000 times since it was posted in May.

His appeal is reflected in the youthful appearance of his supporters; standing outside his office door yesterday were two teenage activists, both of them too young to vote.

Kurti reflects a growing disenchantment among all Kosovans with the economic and political stalemate in their country. But some observers see him as a threat to stability, pointing to the unruly protests he has organised, which have often resulted in his arrest.

Speaking at his party headquarters, funded by a multimillionaire Kosovan-American businessman, Kurti cautiously welcomed Walker’s intervention. “In Kosovo, I believe he [Walker] is the most famous American, along with Bill Clinton and [ex-Nato commander] Wesley Clark,” he said.

Walker’s report into the brutal murder of unarmed civilians [sic] by Slobodan Milosovic’s Serb forces galvanised international opinion against the dictator, eventually leading the way to military intervention to protect the ethnic-Albanian population.

In a speech at a mass rally for the Self-determination party in Pristina on the eve of polls, Walker accused Kosovo’s government of the same abuse of power experienced under Serbian repression in the 1990s, adding that the international community was “complicit” in today’s corruption. “In a word,” he said, “many of the negative aspects of the Milosovic years are being repeated: leaders addicted to the same benefits of power, a willingness to do whatever is necessary to remain in office, continued access to illicit enrichment, a leadership without moral compass.”

He later said that his move was “a little unusual” and conceded that he did not agree with all of Kurti’s policies. But he said that, in a bid to maintain stability, the international community in Kosovo was “looking the other way” while prime minister Hashim Thaci’s party profited from corruption.