Kosovo rerurns vote

AFP, Sunday 9 Jan 2011

Kosovo reruns December's vote, which was the first since its declaration of independence in 2008

A boy passes by an election poster of Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in the Kosovar town of Glogovac, 8 January 2011. (Reuters)

Polling stations opened Sunday for Kosovo's reruns of December's vote, the first since it declared independence in 2008, with international observers keeping a close watch to prevent any fresh fraud.

Voting is being held in five municipalities where electoral authorities annulled the December poll and ordered a rerun due to irregularities which saw a suspiciously high turnout.

Local and international observers noted the turnout of more than 90 percent of voters in two municipalities in the Drenica region, which is one of Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's strongholds.

Some 185 polling stations opened at 7 am (0600 GMT) with around 100 election watch teams consisting of international officials and diplomatic missions' staff accredited in Pristina dispatched to monitor the vote.

They "will follow every stage of the election on voting day," the office of the European envoy to Kosovo, Pieter Feith, said in a press release on Friday.
Feith, who is the top international official in Kosovo warned against new fraud attempts.

"Short term gain at the expense of Kosovo's international reputation is unwise, particularly at a time when Kosovo needs further international and European support," he said.

However, observers predict that the result will have little effect on the overall outcome of the elections with Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) still the largest party in parliament.

Preliminary results in December gave the PDK 33.5 percent of the vote, with the leading opposition Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) trailing on 23.6 percent.

LDK leader and popular Pristina mayor Isa Mustafa has called for new elections saying that democracy was "being violated on a large scale in Kosovo."

In a new blow to Kosovo's democratic institutions just two days ahead of the reruns the Constitutional court also ordered a repeat ballot in the biggest northern town of Mitrovica.

The fresh vote in Mitrovica is expected to be held later this month, which means the Kosovo, if everything goes well on Sunday, can expect to have the new government only in February.

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