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Kosovo election results delayed by irregularities

Kosovo's prime minister, Hashim Thaci, claimed victory – as did the main opposition party. Incidents of ballot stuffing were noted, but the vote overall was relatively peaceful in the two-year-old state.

By Staff Writer / December 13, 2010

Supporters of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) celebrate the party's victory in Pristina, Kosovo, on Dec. 12. Incumbent Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, seen in photo on poster, claimed victory Sunday in Kosovo's first general election since the province declared independence from Serbia. But voting irregularities are expected to delay a final outcome.

Visar Kryeziu/AP

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Kosovo's prime minister, Hashim Thaci, claimed victory in the first self-held parliamentary elections in the two-year-old state, which still seeks United Nations membership. But voting irregularities – including ballot stuffing witnessed by the US ambassador – are expected to delay a final outcome.

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Sunday’s elections were relatively uneventful by Balkan standards. For a tiny landlocked state trying to escape legal and diplomatic limbo, boring may be good if it establishes political legitimacy, analysts say. Kosovo faces crucial talks with Serbia early next year after a decade of official silence from Belgrade, which does not recognize Kosovo.

Serbs in south Kosovo participated in elections for the first time in what may be a sign of further normalization of a new state historically riven by ethnic divides. Yet Serbs in the northern area of Mitrovica, a disputed town that is a seed-bed of Serb paramilitary, continued to opt out.

Mr. Thaci, a former Kosovar rebel and prime minister until snap elections were called weeks back, based his win on independent exit polls Sunday night. He described the 31 percent total for his Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) a victory for “democratic and Euro-Atlantic values.” Kosovar Albanians are avidly pro-European and pro-American following the NATO intervention of 1999 that effectively separated the territory from Serbia.

94 percent turnout?

But polling problems have cropped up. The US Embassy said today that Ambassador Christopher Dell complained to authorities after ballots in a vote box at Hamez Jashari high school in Skenderaj, a Thaci stronghold that Mr. Dell was observing, "exceeded the number of signatures in the voters' books."  

Voting turnout in some PDK strongholds topped 94 percent – though records show turnout had been only 51 percent as late as 4 p.m. This “defies logic,” according to the Foreign Policy Club in Pristina, the capital. Kosovo’s Central Election Commission reported a 48 percent overall turnout.

“Some stations had a 95 percent turnout, which can’t be explained,” says Agron Bajrami, editor in chief of the daily Koha Ditore in Pristina. “Most likely Thaci will be returned, but he may have to wait.”

The main opposition Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) on Monday used its own exit polls to claim a victory – creating gridlock. The LDK, former coalition partner of Thaci founded by Kosovo father-figure Ibrahim Rugova, won 25 percent in independent exit polls.

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