IWPR'S BALKAN CRISIS REPORT No. 507 – July 15, 2004
COMMENT: SURROI THE POLITICIAN
He may face a fiery political baptism, but Veton Surroi could in time play an influential role in local politics.
The recent announcement that Veton Surroi, publisher of the main Kosovan daily Koha Ditore, is entering politics, offers room for reflection on the implications of the move for Kosovan politics.
Surroi has said he will join the civic movement Ora, which will take part in general elections in Kosovo, expected in October.
This can be seen as good news, in that it undoubtedly reflects widespread dissatisfaction with political leaders and highlights their failure to handle Kosovo's re-emerging crisis.
What is becoming clearer by the day in Kosovo politics is the urgent need for an alternative to the two big party blocs, to broaden voters' choices in the autumn polls.
The two blocs are the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, the firmest established party since 1989, and the parties of the "war" bloc, which emerged after the 1999 conflict from the Kosovo Liberation Army movement. These are the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK.
Kosovo now desperately needs a new option, offering not only a different concept of governing but also opposition, as well as fresh initiatives that differ from the old fashioned romantic, folkloric or quasi-patriotic ideas we have experienced in Kosovo so far.
For this reason, Surroi's transformation from journalist to politician could bring a whole new quality to politics.
Widening the political choice before the elections may pose a challenge to those leaders who lost sense of the reality of the region and until now have succeeded in enveloping themselves in an aura of greatness - but without much scrutiny.
On the other side of the coin, Surroi's political debut can be seen as bad news. This is especially so for journalism, for he is even more needed in the still immature sphere of Kosovo journalism than he is in the region's deformed and corrupted politics.
He is also more likely to "burn up" faster in politics than he is in journalism.
His potential benefit from involvement in politics - and vice versa - is much vaguer and less clear than the benefits that Kosovo's journalism already reaps from Surroi; and the other way around.
And if he eventually wishes to cross back to journalism, he will find the change much harder than crossing over from journalism into politics was in the first place.
The fact that Kosovo desperately needs a new political alternative does not mean that the LDK or PDK are no longer needed.
On the contrary, creating a third way - a respectable alternative to the two main parties - would help demystify Kosovo politics.
It may push the two parties towards reform, not only because the war they have waged with each other until now has proved fruitless, but because of the pressure they will endure from a third political force.
Initially, it will not be easy for Surroi to deal with his new colleagues in politics, many of whom he has criticised while a journalist.
Now at the centre of public scrutiny and vulnerable to attacks from every side, like every other politician, he will experience the same fate as those who were once regular guests in his newspaper columns.
His new profession will render him vulnerable from many current colleagues in journalism who feel inferior to him, and who will not hesitate to use the first opportunity they get to pay back grudges against him.
It will not be easy for Surroi, for climbing the stairs of success in politics is not a solitary business, as it is in publishing.
The profession he leaves presupposes a degree of individuality, combined with a certain arrogance and the courage to stand out.
Politics is a different ball game entirely. In this world, individualism - even when based on a firm conviction of being one step ahead of the rest - tends to be short lived. And it often ends in failure.
Ismet Hajdari is a columnist for the Kosovan weekly Java
source: IWPR No. 507
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