Parties vying for power in breakaway Kosovo

The breakaway province of Kosovo holds its third postwar parliamentary election on Saturday, ahead of a showdown with Serbia over the ethnic Albanian majority’s demand for independence.Following are brief profiles of the main parties vying for power in the territory, run by the United Nations since NATO bombs drove out Serb forces in 1999.

Opinion polls suggest no single party will win enough votes to form a government alone.

* DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF KOSOVO (PDK) – Hashim Thaci

The PDK was the main party to emerge from the ethnic Albanian guerrilla army that battled Serb forces in 1998-99, and for the first time since the war it holds a narrow lead in opinion polls ahead of the November 17 election. In opposition since 2004, it is led by 39-year-old former guerrilla commander Hashim Thaci, who is widely tipped to become prime minister.

Western diplomats believe that due to his strong power base in the former guerrilla heartland, Thaci will be able to keep tensions in check as Kosovo’s drive for independence climaxes, possibly around the turn of the year.

* DEMOCRATIC LEAGUE OF KOSOVO (LDK) – Fatmir Sejdiu

Founded by late Kosovo president Ibrahim Rugova, the LDK dominated the drive for independence through the 1990s, before passive resistance gave way to guerrilla war. It has splintered since Rugova’s death of lung cancer in January 2006, when current president Fatmir Sejdiu took over.

As the biggest party in the outgoing governing coalition, it has been hit by accusations of corruption and mounting frustration that independence has not yet materialized. Opinion polls suggest it has slipped into second place.

* NEW KOSOVO ALLIANCE (AKR) – Behgjet Pacolli

Kosovo-born, Swiss-based construction millionaire Behgjet Pacolli is the election wildcard. His year-old party has cruised into third place on a heavily technocratic program promising investment and jobs for Kosovo’s bitterly poor population. Known as the man who renovated the Kremlin, the 56-year-old Pacolli appears untarnished by his close business ties with Russia, which backs Serbia in opposing Kosovo’s independence.

* ALLIANCE FOR THE FUTURE OF KOSOVO (AAK) – Ramush Haradinaj

The junior partner in Kosovo’s outgoing coalition, it continues to be led by Ramush Haradinaj, a former guerrilla commander on trial for war crimes at the U.N. tribunal in The Hague. Haradinaj was prime minister for 100 days, impressing voters and diplomats alike, but resigned in March 2005 when he was indicted by the tribunal. The AAK has since struggled. Haradinaj heads the party’s list of candidates, but his trial is expected to continue well into 2008.

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