Why Kosovo's Uneventful Election Is a Step Forward for the Balkans

By Chick, Kristen | The Christian Science Monitor, June 9, 2014 | Go to article overview

Why Kosovo's Uneventful Election Is a Step Forward for the Balkans


Chick, Kristen, The Christian Science Monitor


The most important news from yesterday's general election in Kosovo may have been that, as compared to the last election, the polls went off without a hitch.

According to preliminary results, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo won about 31 percent of the vote, with the Democratic League of Kosovo coming in second at about 26 percent. But as important, if not more so, observers reported that yesterday's vote was fair and credible, unlike the last general elections in 2010, which were marred by widespread fraud.

In addition, the parliamentary vote was the first to see participation from ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo since Europe's youngest country declared independence.

Northern Kosovo borders Serbia and has been outside Pristina's control; ethnic Serbs in that area largely boycotted the vote in 2010. But this year, they participated in the election following an agreement signed by Serbia and Kosovo last year to normalize relations. Though Serbia has not recognized Kosovo's independence, which Kosovo declared unilaterally in 2008, Serbia's efforts to join the European Union hinge in part on normalizing relations with its new neighbor.

There was none of the violence yesterday that disrupted voting in north Kosovo in last year's municipal elections, but voter turnout in the majority-Serb area was low, with observers at times outnumbering voters in some polling stations.

Analysts say the uncontroversial election may be a modest step forward, but challenges remain. Fisnik Korenica, director of the Pristina-based Group for Legal and Political studies, called the participation by Serbs in north Kosovo "a step toward entering Kosovo institutions but not true integration." With some ethnic Serb politicians in Kosovo answering to Belgrade, their participation in Kosovo's parliament or government will give Serbia a role in Kosovo's internal politics, he notes.

Yet negotiations with Serbia were hardly mentioned in parties' campaigns. …

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