Elections for 120 members of Kosovo’s parliament as well as councilors and heads of 30 municipalities closed in the Serbian breakaway province on Saturday night without major incidents.
No major irregularities had been registered during the elections, said Sven Lindholm, spokesman for the elections competition office OSCE’s Mission in Kosovo. Lindholm said that the voters could not access a large number of voting centers, such as schools, in northern Kosovo with predominantly Serb population but that mobile polling stations were used to enable everybody to use their civil right. He added that no incidents had been registered and that the elections would not be repeated at any of the over 2,000 polling stations. The polling stations closed at 7 p.m. (18:00 GMT) after 12 hours of voting. Major Kosovo political parties and the Central Election Commission confirmed that around 35% of the 1.5 million voters went to the polling stations by 4 p.m. (15:00 GMT).
Some 150 Council of Europe observers and 25,000 local monitors were deployed around the polling stations. The observers did not report about any tough breaches of the election process. The preliminary official results will be published in two or three days, Lindholm said, adding that the counting of the votes would continue on Sunday. Most of some 100,000 ethnic Serb voters boycotted the elections at the behest of the Serbian government.
Belgrade remains staunchly opposed to Kosovo’s independence, saying that it is prepared to offer ethnic Albanians broad local autonomy within Serbia’s borders. Candidates from a total of 25 parties were contesting, including those from nine Albanian parties, 14 minority slates and two independent candidates. NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR)’s 16,000-strong peacekeepers and around 9,000 police were also called to guard against any possible disturbances. The elections were the third in the Serbian province since the deployment of KFOR international peacekeepers in 1999 and the first that held on the basis of proportional representation.
Kosovo’s President Fatmir Sejdiu said that through the elections Kosovo entered the stage of solving the province’s political status issue. In his words it’s important for citizens to participate in Saturday’s parliamentary and local elections. Kosovo’s Prime Minister Agim Ceku urged after casting his vote that Kosovo’s new institutions should be formed before Dec. 10, when the international troika of US, EU and Russian envoys will report to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about Kosovo’s future status talks.
Analysts say the elections can likely end decades of domination by the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo of late president Ibrahim Rugova, which is, according to surveys, trailing the Democratic Party of Kosovo led by Hashim Thaci, a 39-year-old former guerrilla commander during the Kosovo war. Thaci said that the Saturday elections were a “big victory of Kosovo citizens for democracy, safe and European future and preservation of relations with the United States.”
European Union Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn on Sunday urged elected politicians in Kosovo to work constructively towards a sustainable settlement to the status of the Serbian province. In a statement he called on the elected authorities in Kosovo “to work constructively for a sustainable status settlement as well as to facilitate progress on European integration.” Rehn also prodded “the elected politicians to work smoothly for the rapid formation of the new government.” He welcomed that the parliamentary and local elections in Kosovo were conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner and “largely in accordance with international standards, as reported by the preliminary assessment of the observation mission of the Council of Europe”. But Rehn said he regretted that Kosovo Serbs had boycotted the elections.
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica rejected on Sunday EU envoy Wolfgang Ischinger’s proposal on the neutral status of Kosovo as the proposal represents just another name for independence of the Serbian province. “The response to the question whether Serbia will agree to have another Albanian state be created under any name in its territory would have to be known to everybody already. It is quite certain that the way to an agreement cannot lead through the making up of new names for the province’s independence,” Kostunica told the national news agency Tanjug in a statement. Kostunica recalled that the proposals which had been presented by international mediators so far had been supervised independence, limited independence, confederation, different variations of the model of two German states and neutral status. “It is now time for international mediators to show objectivity and propose some form of essential autonomy. We will help them in this in Brussels, by showing how essential autonomies function successfully in the world,” Kostunica said. (people.com.cn)