This article originally appeared on Kosovo 2.0. Available here in English, Albanian, and Serbian.
Most people are used to seeing Albin Kurti leading a protest, speaking at a press conference, or passionately arguing in a televised debate — not soliciting donations. The Vetevendosje party, however, released a video yesterday which features Kurti announcing a fundraising drive for their municipal election campaign. According to Kurti, his competitors — the other parties running for office — are not funded in a transparent manner, leaving Vetevendosje at a disadvantage. Vetevendosje supporters are therefore being asked, in the video, to give donations of five to 1000 euros as part of a campaign called Give for Change (Dhuro per Ndryshimin).
This kind of direct solicitation is something new in Kosovo, and in a country where 40% of the population is unemployed, it’s a risky endeavor — it could easily upset Vetevendosje’s social justice-oriented base. It could also, however, serve as a welcome change in terms of transparency. The sources of funding for Kosovo’s political parties are not publicly available, and details of the process are difficult to obtain.
Kosovo’s Consolidated Budget funds a certain amount of party expenses; a recent Zeri article stated that approximately 5 million euros are earmarked for parties in the assembly. For the most part, funding is determined based on the number of assembly seats a party holds. For parties without parliamentary seats, citizens’ initiatives, and independent candidates, a further 466 thousand euros are set aside.
Donations to parties are regulated by law, and these laws set limits for the kinds of contributions individuals can give, as well as their amounts. The Law on Financing Political Parties calls for full disclosure of party finances. However, none of the major parties make their books available online, and past requests by media to examine party finances have been met with a resounding “no.”
It’s this kind of secretiveness that fosters shady tenders, funds dubious public works, and feeds the perception that Kosovo’s political parties are fronts for backdoor deals and corrupt practices. In this context, asking for direct contributions from voters might not be the worst idea. After all, U.S. President Barack Obama’s victorious 2008 campaign was notably funded by a diverse mix of traditional, large-scale donors and smaller, “crowd-sourced” contributions. Will this approach fly in Kosovo, though? And will it make a dent come election day?