Kosovo PM claims victory, coalition seen

PM Thaci claimed victory in Kosovo's first general election since independence after exit polls put his PDK party well ahead.

Kosovo PM claims victory, coalition seen

Prime Minister Hashim Thaci claimed victory in Kosovo's first general election since independence on Sunday after exit polls put his PDK party well ahead.

"Victory is ours," Thaci, without a tie and with sleeves rolled up, told supporters shortly before midnight. "The elections were a referendum on the European future of Kosovo."

The Gani Bobi polling agency said a survey of more than 2,000 voters leaving voting stations put the PDK on 31 percent and the LDK, the PDK's main coalition partner in the outgoing government, on 25 percent.

With almost a third of the votes counted, the PDK had 34 percent, and the LDK 25 percent, according to a group of non-governmental organisations following the counting.

Such results mean Thaci will once again have to seek backing from smaller parties.

In the last election in 2007, the PDK won 34.3 percent and the LDK 22.6 percent. Sunday's turnout was 47.8 percent, according to the election commission, slightly up on 2007.

"Coalition"

The biggest surprise was the strength of the Self Determination movement, running for the first time, which wants to unite Kosovo with ethnic kin in neighbouring Albania. The exit poll put it in third place on 16 percent.

It also wants to reduce international controls over Kosovo, which is still an international protectorate, and stop the privatisation process.

The LDK has said it does not want to renew its coalition with Thaci's party, which could mean a say in government for the Self Determination movement or other smaller parties.

The European Union and the United States view the snap election as a test of Kosovo's democratic maturity, and a free and fair vote is a condition for eventual membership in the EU.

"I consider the voting process a success," said Valdete Daka, the head of the Central Election Commission. "There have been technical hitches that have not hurt the process."

Serbia has called the 120,000-strong Serb minority in Kosovo to boycott the vote.

Despite Belgrade's call however, the electoral commission said eight of the 29 political parties on the ballot represented Serbs.

Ethnic Serbs in the divided town of Mitrovica boycotted the election.

But, Serbs in enclaves in central Kosovo, accounting for two-thirds of the Serb population, were reported to have turned out in unprecedented numbers, including up to 50 percent in some Serb towns.

Ten of the 120 parliamentary seats are reserved for the Serb minority but this could increase to 15 if Serb turnout is high.

Many Albanians interviewed outside polling stations said they hoped for change. With the past rallying cry of independence realised in 2008, Albanians are less reverential about their leaders today as they face the tough reality of building a nation during an era of world economic crisis.

"I would like to see more courageous leaders who keep their word," said Fatime Sheremeti, 47.


Agencies


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Last Mod: 13 Aralık 2010, 09:52
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