The people of Kosovo go to vote today in an election whose outcome is the most uncertain in the history of the country’s independence.
More than 1,700,000 voters in Kosovo have the right to head to polling stations today to elect their new members of parliament. The elections are being held in 798 polling centres in all 38 municipalities.
Valmir Elezi, spokesperson of the Central Election Commission, CEC, said the CEC had made all necessary preparations, “although the commission has had little time to prepare for the elections’.
The elections follow an intense ten-day campaign, the shortest in the history of Kosovo, where the campaigns normally last from 30 up to 45 days.
Some 30 parties with a total of 1,235 candidates are running for the June 8 polls.
Parties have been campaigning with programs focusing on the economy, creating more jobs and on improving the health and education system.
A tough competition is expected between the two main parties, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, and Isa Mustafa’s Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK.
The nationalistic Vetevendosje movement is expected to win more votes than it did in the last elections in 2010, when it gained gained 12.69 per cent.
For the first time since the end of the conflict in Kosovo in the late 1990s, Serbs living in the northern part of Kosovo are participating in national polls organized by authorities in Pristina.
Prior to the elections, the Serbs established a united Belgrade-backed lits, called Srpska.
While relatively few in number, with a united stance in parliament the Serbs could yet wield significant influence on the government of Kosovo, a state that many of them do not recognize.
The refusal of Serbs to accept Kosovo’s statehood is likely to reflect the way they will be voting.
Office for Kosovo Director Marko Duric told Serbian media ‘for the state of Serbia, that is not a coat of arms of the state of Kosovo.”
“In the north of Kosovo the ballots will have appropriate measures so that people at the polls have no direct encounter with that logo,” he said.
‘I think that people who receive a ballot will have the opportunity to cross out that coat of arms, or something like that’. Duric added.
The CEC did not comment on this issue.
Of the 120 seats in parliament, 10 are already automatically reserved for Serbs but there is no upper limit on the number of seats that Serbs can win.
The last local polls held in 2013 were marred with irregularities in the Serbian-dominated part of the north, where masked men entered several polling stations, destroying election material.
Aiming to ensure that no corrupt acts or crimes take place during the voting, around 100 prosecutors will be on duty across the country alongside 27,733 election observers.
For this year’s elections, police officers are taking additional safety measures before and after the vote.
Police will take action to ‘prevent and combat criminal acts wherever they jeopardize public peace… during the electoral process”, a police statement said.
The EU rule-of-law mission, EULEX, said the mission and KFOR international peacekeepers ‘stand ready to support the police and intervene immediately if the electoral process is in any way threatened or if the safety of people at polling stations, polling committee members, the election facilitators or observers is endangered’.
In the last general elections in Kosovo held in 2010, the PDK won 32.11 per cent of the votes, the LDK won 24.69 per cent, Vetevendosje gained 12.69 per cent, Ramush Haradinaj’s Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, won 11.04 per cent and Behgjet Paccolli’s New Kosovo Alliance won 7.29 per cent.