PRISTINA -- The campaign for Kosovo's December 12 early elections has begun, but Serbian officials in northern Kosovo warn that setting up polling stations there would be a provocation that could lead to incidents, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.
The elections will be the first since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February 2008 and will be a test of the Kosovars' ability to conduct fair elections and integrate the Serbian community, most of which has fiercely opposed Kosovo's separation from Serbia.
About 1.6 million voters are eligible to vote for the 1,265 candidates from 29 parties and independent lists running for the 120 seats in Kosovo's parliament, 20 of which are reserved for Serbs and other minorities.
The Serbs are guaranteed 10 of those 20 seats, and they are all likely to go to candidates from six parties and two independent lists from the areas where Serbs recognize Kosovo's institutions.
Serbia has called on Kosovo Serbs to boycott elections, and Belgrade's Kosovo minister, Oliver Ivanovic, told RFE/RL that the Kosovar election commission's plans to deploy 40 mobile voting stations for four Serb-majority municipalities in the north, which is adjacent to Serbia, are unacceptable.
"When such a clearly marked bus is parked in the center among people who have a clear political attitude, who are not satisfied because someone wants to open that polling station and because someone 'pushes' them to vote in those elections, I am afraid that there may be reactions," Ivanovic said.
Dragisa Milovic, the head of the Zvecan municipality near the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica, said the opening of voting stations in Serbian areas, including the police station in Zvecan, is "unacceptable."
"That cannot happen anywhere in the world and will certainly not happen here," said Milovic.
Estimates put the number of Serbs in Kosovo at between 70,000 and 120,000, the overwhelming majority of them living in the north.
Central Kosovo Serb leader Rada Trajkovic, who heads the United Serb list on the ballots, said that tensions are being unnecessarily raised in the north.
"After this [setting up of voting booths in Serbian areas and the reaction it causes], the work of Serbian leaders will again come under a spotlight," Trajkovic said.