Kosovo Citizen Perceptions of Political Parties: A Focus Group Study Summary

  • Audrey May
Sun setting on aerial view of Prishtina

Political parties in Kosovo have struggled to successfully engage women and youth voters and include them in their decision-making and the consequences for political parties was clear from the 2021 general election results. To explore this issue further, IRI conducted focus groups and published a report discussing Kosovars’ views on important issues, including women and youth engagement in the political process. The report shows a perception that women and youth involvement in politics has increased, but also, that they are not well represented, nor involved enough in decision-making within political parties.  

Respondents who participated in IRI’s Focus Group report expressed a belief that the involvement of women and youth in politics in the 2021 general elections was much higher than in previous years. Youth are especially involved in election campaigns. Respondents also highlighted the increase in women’s participation in politics, citing that in the current Kosovo government five out of 15 high profile ministries are run by women and also highlighted Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani.  

However, respondents also believe that women and youth are not involved enough in decision-making and leadership in political parties and are instead only included as a formality. More explicitly, some respondents believe that when women are assigned duties within political parties, they tend to be solely administrative jobs. The division of women and youth forums from the rest of party leadership contributes to this impression. Kosovo’s gender gap is especially prominent at the municipal level, where only two out of 38 mayors are women, and representatives are disproportionately men in municipal assemblies. Ultimately, the issues respondents connect to why women and youth do not believe that their needs are being addressed. Representation at lower levels or in separate forums, without any voice at the highest levels where policy and platforms are decided, is not a full and true representation. This is a problem for their representative democracy, as it hampers the ability of institutions to create policies that directly respond to the needs of all its citizens.  

Findings from the Report also revealed that participants believe campaigns are usually filled with promises to curb unemployment among youth, but after elections, parties go back on these promises and return to the status quo.  Kosovo has the highest unemployment rate among youth in the Western Balkans, and socio-economic problems such as the lack of employment opportunities, poor economic development, high level of corruption, low quality of healthcare, and low quality of education have caused emigration among young people. Women face many of the same issues, as 32 percent of women in Kosovo are unemployed.  

IRI will continue to work with political parties to deepen the roles of women and youth in party structures and has conducted a barrier assessment for each party to identify the specific obstacles to the inclusion of women and youth in the decision-making process. Based on this assessment, specific recommendations will be provided to each party to increase women and youth inclusion and IRI will support political parties as they work to revise their strategic plans to address the identified barriers. Once political parties more actively engage and include more women and youth in key processes, they will better represent all of Kosovo’s citizens.  

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