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U.S. Election Provokes Excitement, Indifference In Serbia And Kosovo

  • RFE/RL's Balkan Service

Kosovars wave the U.S., Kosovo, and U.K. flags as they celebrate in Pristina on July 22, 2010, after the World Court said Kosovo's declaration of independence was legal.

Kosovars wave the U.S., Kosovo, and U.K. flags as they celebrate in Pristina on July 22, 2010, after the World Court said Kosovo's declaration of independence was legal.

There are few areas of the world in which pro- and anti-American sentiments exist side by side as they do in Serbia and Kosovo, and polarization was on full display as news of U.S. President Barack Obama's reelection reached the Balkans.

While the U.S. election and its outcome was closely followed in Kosovo by local media and citizens alike, President Obama's victory was met with general disinterest in Serbia.

Much of this can be attributed to recent history. Washington's leading role in NATO's 1999 military campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is cause for scorn in Serbia -- and celebration in Kosovo, the former Serbian province the campaign was intended to protect.

RFE/RL Kosovo Unit head Arbana Vidishiqi says newspapers in Kosovo featured extensive coverage of the U.S. vote, noting that the daily "Bota Sot" (World Today) headlined its election-day coverage with "Albanians Believe In God And Friendship With The USA."

"The U.S. elections were always followed closely in Kosovo, but never to this extent," Vidishiqi says. "TV was full of debate, analysis, [and] vox pops as Americans cast their votes."

Meanwhile, local news prevailed in Serbia, according to RFE/RL Belgrade bureau head Slobodan Kostic. "News of government conflicts, the continuing dialogue over Kosovo, and corruption scandals quickly overshadowed the news of Barack Obama's victory," he notes.

Unlike much of the rest of the world, Kostic adds, people in Serbia are generally not interested in U.S. elections.

No Party Lines

Bosko Jaksic, foreign-policy editor for the Serbian newspaper "Politika," believes that because the people of Serbia view former U.S. President Bill Clinton as the orchestrator of U.S. foreign policy toward the Balkans, they anticipate no real change under the continued presidency of a fellow Democrat like Obama.

Serbian police look at a new flag raised at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade in February 2008, which was set on fire by protesters enraged by Western support for Kosovo's independence.

Serbian police look at a new flag raised at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade in February 2008, which was set on fire by protesters enraged by Western support for Kosovo's independence.



Clinton's involvement in the Balkans -- as president he was heavily involved in the peace process that ended the 1992-95 Bosnian War and was a driving force in the 1999 NATO action that drove Serbian forces from Kosovo -- plays much better in Kosovo.

As Kosovo-based analyst Shenoll Muharremi explains, Kosovars tend to lean toward the Democratic Party as a result. "If Kosovo would have been eligible to vote, I am sure that they would have voted Obama," Muharremi says.

Support for the United States among Kosovars cannot necessarily be broken down along party lines, however.

While the road to independence was initiated by Clinton's administration, Kosovo actually declared independence in February 2008 during George W. Bush's presidency.

Today's front page of the Kosovo newspaper "Express" featured images of both Obama and Romney, accompanied by the headline, "They Are The Same To Us."

Istref Klinaku a 55-year-old accountant, echoes that sentiment. "For us, it doesn't really matter if Obama or Romney wins, this is America's choice," he says. "As for the American policy towards Kosovo, I don't think it would have changed due to the change of president or the political party he belongs to."

Written and reported by Deana Kjuka, with reporting by Arbana Vidishiqi and Slobodan Kostic of RFE/RL's Balkan Service

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