Kosovo votes amid thorny border issues and talks with Serbia

Nick Mcbride
June 12, 2017

Gani Bobi said it will offer its exit poll at the end of voting, according to Shkelzen Maliqi, the head of the organizations. The nationalist Self-Determination Movement came in second with 30 percent, while the coalition led by former Prime Minister Isa Mustafa is third with 27 percent of the vote.

Turnout up until 3 p.m. (1300 GMT; 9 a.m. EDT) was about 28 percent, 2.5 percent higher than the previous polls three years ago, according to Daka.

Ramush Haradinaj, who is nominated by the coalition to be prime minister, hailed Kosovars "for the trust given to the coalition", adding "these are the best elections ever held in Kosova".

The new government will also have to try to strike a border demarcation deal with Montenegro, which is the last condition for the European Union to grant visa-free travel for Kosovars.

At stake are thorny issues including a border demarcation deal with Montenegro that brought down the previous government, and the approval of another deal with Serbia giving more rights to the ethnic Serb minority.

Kosovo votes in an early parliamentary election Sunday.

The June 11 election, the third vote since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, was triggered about a year earlier than scheduled after Prime Minister Isa Mustafa's government lost a no-confidence vote in parliament.

For although Kosovo's independence has been recognised by more than 110 countries, Serbia still refuses to acknowledge it.

Nineteen political parties, five coalitions and two citizens' initiatives, all promising to break the isolation and secure growth, have nominated candidates.

"My expectations are for free fair election in Kosovo", said U.S. Ambassador Greg Delawie at a polling station. "Keep it up, more hard work to come".

Local and worldwide observers are monitoring the vote.

With 70% of votes counted, the alliance dubbed the "war wing" by Kosovo's media, and led by the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) of President Hashim Thaci, the opposition Vetevendosje (VV) party 26.3%, and a coalition led by the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) 25.8%, the Democracy in Action non-governmental organisation said.

Haradinaj has served as prime minister before.

The Serbian List looks likely to win seven of the 10 seats reserved for Serbs in the 120-seat Kosovo parliament and will probably be part of the next government.

The West believes that the incorporation of Western Balkan countries in the European Union is the most effective way of stabilising a region blighted by war throughout the 1990s.

Kurti and fellow party members repeatedly threw tear gas in parliament to prevent a law passing on a border demarcation deal with Montenegro.

Opposition parties say that deal meant a loss of territory, over 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres), or less than 1 percent of Kosovo's land. The former Cabinet, global experts and the country's Western backers dispute that claim.

The Self-Determination Movement and others also oppose another deal signed in 2015 that gave more rights to the ethnic Serb minority.

But analysts say ex-commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army have another reason for all wanting to be in power at the same time - a new special court in The Hague may soon indict some of them for crimes against Serbs and political rivals during and immediately after the 1998-1999 war.

Other reports by VgToday

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