The hope that the vote, as a civic obligation, can bring a change
The media organization KosovaLive before the local elections in late October 2017 has held eight workshops named “Votuesit e ri për një të ardhme më të mirë”, “New voters for a better future”, with adults aged 18 to 22, who vote for the first time, which was as a platform where they will identify their needs in the municipalities where they live and which will also serve as an incentive for participation in the voting process.
In the focus of these interactive workshops, young voters were informed about the programs of candidates running for mayoral and assemblies’ elections, analyzing their promises and raising the problems faced by them and their fellow citizens.
Ten new voters participated in each workshop, who in cooperation with the trainers have deconstructed the political programs of the mayoral candidates and whether these programs have influenced the orientation of their policy.
Workshops were held in the largest centers of Kosovo, including also those with Serb majority residents: Pristina, Graçanicë, Prizren, Gjilan, Ferizaj, North Mitrovica, Peja and Gjakova. All of these municipalities and workshops will be portrayed separately in the following weeks.
Municipality of Ferizaj today is among the most developed economic municipalities of Kosova. In the last four years the number of businesses has increased, which has provided social stability compared to other municipalities of Kosova, but the citizens think that municipal authorities should do much more to facilitate their daily lives and to offer prospects for adults.
At the workshop organized by the media organization KosovaLive, “Votuesit e rinj – për një të ardhme më të mirë”, “Young voters – for a better future”, the new voters of Ferizaj have identified the problems faced not only by Ferizaj but also in 44 villages belonging to this municipality. As in other municipalities, they consider that nepotism, party-based employment is one of the problems that is not only difficult to solve but that it is difficult to believe that any candidate for mayor can stop this problem.
During the workshop, young voters were divided into two groups and each group identified ten problems that they considered that the new municipal authorities, respectively the mayor should have as priorities. Both groups considered that there were no adequate conditions at the hospitals and that the services at the family medical centers and hospitals are bad, including lack of health protection, health infrastructure, medication shortages and the hygiene problem.
Two main mayoral candidates, Muharrem Svarqa from the Democratic League of Kosovo and Agim Aliu from the Democratic Party of Kosovo, in their election campaigns were also focused on the problem of providing quality health services.
Thus, Svarqa promised to build the regional hospital and together with that the hospital complex for the treatment of diabetes. Agim Aliu has also promised the construction of the Regional Hospital Center and the construction of dozens of family medicine centers in the villages of Ferizaj municipality.
However, some young voters think that the health problem in this municipality cannot be solved only by local authorities neither realize their promises without cooperation with the Ministry of Health.
Young voters consider that one of the major problems in the municipality is the lack of urban traffic. They have emphasized that urban buses rarely go in some parts of town and villages, and also the buses are. They think that this problem could be solved by the new mayor of this municipality.
As a second problem, they have classified the problem of bad roads, sewerage system and water infrastructure.
The willingness of young voters to be part of the electoral process in the hope that their vote may bring a change has been observed during the organized workshop as well as before and after the poll. On the question of whether they will participate in the elections, 75 percent have responded positively and the same percentage has come again in elections during the run-off election in this municipality.
While analyzing promises and programs of candidates for mayor of Ferizaj, they initially identified candidates for mayor, and then identified if these two discussed issues were of priority.
For mayor of Ferizaj eight candidates competed.
Alongside Muharrem Svarqa and Agim Ali, candidates were Faton Topalli of the Self-Determination Movement, Xhavit Zariqi of the Alliance for the Future of Kosova, Besnik Berisha from the Initiative for Kosovo, Qazim Rrahmani from the RAE community, Bashkim Fazliu from Civic Initiatives for Ferizaj and Amir Rexhepi from Alliance for New Kosova.
The two main candidates, Muharrem Svarqa and Agim Aliu, for whom the citizens of Ferizaj also voted in the second round on 22nd of November 2017, in their pre-election campaigns they again mentioned the commitment to improve road infrastructure, sewage system and water supply.
Out of 44 villages in the municipality of Ferizaj, 31 of them face the problem of lack of sewerage and drinking water. Svarqa considers that the issue of drinking water can be solved by opening the wells in the villages.
In his pre-election campaign he just mentioned the issue of building a water supply system. In some villages the construction of the water system had already started in 2011, but so far no project has been completed.
As for sewage, he said that a project in cooperation with the World Bank is currently being developed, specifically the construction of a wastewater collection plant.
On the other hand, Aliu during the pre-election campaign presented three infrastructural projects that he named “Project for the unification of the city”. It is about the project of building two underpasses and a pedestrian crossing to avoid the railroad that passes through the city. Aliu has emphasized that these projects will help improve the urban chaos in traffic and that in these three projects will be invested over three million euros.
With the investment in infrastructure Aliu foresees the solutions for the problems of water and sewage. He has promised that every neighborhood in town and every village will have access to water and will solve the issue of sewage.
However, he did not mention how much could cost such a big project.
The participants of the workshop, however, had the dilemma if with their vote they could change the current situation in their municipality.
One of the participants of the workshop, a new voter, Rreze Misini said:
“Considering the work of different parties and their plan for the city of Ferizaj, I am in dilemma. Electoral participation shows that I am part of the Kosovo population and that I decide for the good of the country without being influenced by anything. Numerous parties and their program more or less the same, buying votes in different ways, corruption are among the reasons I see as indicators of non-participation in the election”.
Lulëzim Hasani and Mirjeta Shehu consider that voting in elections is a civic obligation. They declared that they will be part of that process.
Meanwhile, Hasani has expressed his opinion that elected representatives do not stand behind their promises during the mandate, whereas Mirjeta Shehu as a problem has pointed out the vote manipulation and the lack of optimism that the situation can be changed.
However, the right to vote in the municipality of Ferizaj had 108,561 citizens, and this right was used only by 40.72 percent of them. There were even 651 invalid ballots and 19 unfulfilled ballots.
In the second round has won candidate from the Democratic Party of Kosovo, Agim Aliu. For him have voted 24,384 citizens, specifically he had 56.18 percent of votes, while Muharrem Svarqa received 43.82 percent of the total votes, 19,016 citizens had voted from him.