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.
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The new Kosovo Self-Determination Party of activist-intellectual Albin Kurti, a sharp critic of the UN and a former dissident under Serb rule, did surprisingly well at 16 percent.Skip to next paragraph
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How and whether Thaci can form a coalition is the next hurdle.
The role of charismatic figures
Kosovo politics are organized around charismatic figures and not traditional left-right positions. Local issues dominated: visa access to Europe, promises (often extravagant) for economic development, and a very contentious “privatization” question – sales of major enterprises to private companies without transparency or often accountability for funds.
Kosovo is more than 90 percent Albanian, though it is considered a mythic heartland of Serbian identity. It declared independence in 2008 after a decade as a UN protectorate, backed by NATO forces and given development help by the European Union. Unemployment still verges on 45 percent and the state seeks to overcome its image as an unstable conflict zone in order to attract investment.
The EU announced this month it is set to help broker talks between Serbia and Kosovo next year.
Serbs' 'parallel' institutions
In recent years, Serb minorities have controversially tried to establish “parallel institutions” in their Kosovo enclaves. However, the vote by Serbs in south Kosovo on Sunday indicates a willingness to further integrate. A multiethnic Kosovo has been a chief aim of Western policy in a region where ethnic tensions are still tense in Bosnia and Macedonia.
In Kosovo’s first elections in 2008, held under international auspices, only about 1,000 Serbs voted; totals yesterday were as high as 20,000. Unlike Serbs in Mitrovica in the north, Serbs in the south are isolated from Belgrade. Marko Prelec of the International Conflict Group say these Serbs see it in their interest to attempt to join Kosovar institutions.
One Sunday election observer not authorized to give his name said a peaceful and uneventful vote “is good news for Kosovo. Not every election needs to be historic.”
Kosovo attracted the eyes of the world in 1999 after Serb forces were driven out by NATO following a failed mass “ethnic cleansing” campaign by Belgrade. That campaign is seen as part of the late Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic to create a “Greater Serbia” by killing and forced relocation of non-Serbs.
Some 77 nations recognized Kosovo after it declared independence in February 2008, including the US and most European Union states. An international court at The Hague this summer stated that Kosovo’s declaration was not illegal. In a surprise move this September, Serbia agreed to stop disputing Kosovo’s status in the UN – which in turn has sped Belgrade’s efforts to join the EU.