Former rebels set to lead Kosovo

Former rebels set to lead Kosovo

The centre-right Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), led by former ethnic Albanian rebel commanders, won the most votes in Kosovo’s general election on Sunday, amid a nationalist swing.

It was Kosovo’s third election since it declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move recognised by 114 countries, but not by Serbia and Russia.

The former insurgents secured 35 per cent of the vote, followed by the nationalist Self-Determination Movement, led by the former prime minister Isa Mustafa, which had around 26 per cent, although counting continued, according to Democracy in Action monitors.

A coalition pact will probably be needed.

The PDK coalition, with a large number of former guerrillas, has been labelled the “war wing” by Kosovo’s media.

Crises facing the new government include a border demarcation deal with Montenegro, signing an agreement with Serbia giving more rights to the ethnic Serb minority and ongoing talks with Serbia, which denies Kosovo’s existence.

Many of Kosovo’s 1.8 million citizens blame politicians from all sides for unemployment that hovers at around one-third of the workforce despite strong economic expansion of about 4 per cent annually in one of the poorest countries in Europe.

Ramush Haradinaj, who is nominated to be the PDK’s prime minister, praised Kosovars “for the trust given to the coalition”, adding that “these are the best elections ever held” in the former province of Serbia.

“The victory is convincing and make us capable of operating further to create the country’s government,” Haradinaj said.

If Haradinaj becomes prime minister it will complicate relations with Serbia, which has issued an international arrest warrant against him for alleged war crimes when he was a guerrilla during Kosovo’s 1998-99 war for independence.

Haradinaj, 48, has faced trial twice and been acquitted of war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. He was elected prime minister of Kosovo in 2004 but resigned after 100 days in order to face trial in The Hague. Haradinaj has denied all charges.

The final results for the new 120-seat parliament are due later this week. Ethnic Serbs and other minority groups have 20 seats reserved in the parliament under the constitution.

The PDK is looking to form a coalition with the 10 parliamentarians representing the non-Serb minorities, including ethnic Turks and Roma.

The Self-Determination Movement doubled its share of the vote after acting as a disruptive force in the previous parliament. It is the biggest opposition party to shun pre-election coalition talks. Its MPs and supporters set off tear gas inside parliament and threw firebombs outside in opposition to the proposed agreements with Montenegro and Serbia.

Kosovo in 1999. Picture credit: US Army Quartermaster Museum

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