Kosovo goes to polls for first time

16th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

An estimated 1.4 million voters will choose mayors and deputies for local assemblies in the first polls in Kosovo since it proclaimed independence from Serbia in February 2008.

Pristina -- Campaigning in newly independent Kosovo's first local elections began Thursday ahead of a November 15 poll.

"The elections will be held in 36 municipalities," Fehmi Ajvazi, spokesman for the Central Electoral Commission told reporters.

An estimated 1.4 million voters will choose mayors and deputies for local assemblies in the first polls in Kosovo since it proclaimed independence from Serbia in February 2008.

Nesrin Lushta of the commission said that 74 political parties, coalitions, citizens' groups and independent candidates would stand in the elections.

Among them were representatives of the Serb minority, the largest in Kosovo, despite Serbia's call for a boycott of the polls, she said.

"Of the 74... 35 of them are Albanian, 23 Serb and the rest belong to other minorities," she said.

Two front-runners are the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) of Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and the Democratic League of Kosovo of President Fatmir Sejdiu.

They began their campaign early Thursday presenting their candidates for the post of mayor of Pristina.

Thaci introduced university professor Astrit Salihu, while Sejdiu's party supported current mayor Isa Mustafa.

The think tank International Crisis Group (ICG), meanwhile, urged Kosovo Serbs to vote in the polls.

In a report released Thursday it called on the international community and Pristina to "explain the concrete advantages of voting, reassuring Serbs that their ties to Belgrade will not be imperilled."

Sabine Freizer, Crisis Group’s Europe Programme Director, added: "Overcoming Serb distrust can only be done on the basis of tangible benefits in everyday life: responsible locally-led government, municipal services and economic growth."

Kosovo split from Serbia in February 2008 and its independence was recognised by 62 countries, including the US and the majority of the European Union.

Serbia, however, considers Kosovo to be its southern province and opposes its independence as a breach of international law.

Belgrade is expecting the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the judicial arm of the United Nations, to consider the dispute.

AFP/Expatica

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