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Analysis: An Election Gamble In Kosova?

Kosova's Central Election Commission is slated to announce on 12 August the order in which parties and coalitions will appear on the ballot in the 23 October parliamentary elections. The problem is that most Serbian parties and coalitions have either said that they will not participate or have not yet made a final decision (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6, 9, and 10 August 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 December 2003, and 16 April and 6 August 2004).

The international community, Kosova's Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi, and much of the Kosovar Albanian leadership have sought to convince the Serbs not to boycott, so that the new parliament will be truly representative and the Serbs will be able to help determine their own future. Kosova's population is about 90 percent ethnic Albanian (see the article below).

Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic has also urged Kosova's Serbs to vote lest they exclude themselves from the decision-making process (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2004). He said that plans by some local Serbian leaders and Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica for the Serbian minority to boycott the election will help nobody. Draskovic called on Serbs to protect their interests by filling the up to 30 seats to which they are entitled in Kosova's legislature.

RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Prishtina on 11 August that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) are considering options to enable the Serbs to join the electoral process even after 12 August. One possibility is to leave blank some spaces on the list of parties and coalitions to be published on that date, so that Serbian contenders might be added later.

But it is not clear that the Serbs will be inclined to participate at all. Leaders of a three-party Serbian coalition informed election officials and representatives of the international community on 10 August that they will follow the advice of Kostunica and many other Belgrade politicians and not participate in the vote. Momcilo Trajkovic, who heads the Serbian Resistance Movement (SPOT), which belongs to the coalition, said that he does not expect Belgrade to change its position.

Kostunica and many local Serbian leaders argue that security for the Serbs is lacking. Ethnic Albanian leaders charge that this is a ruse aimed at securing approval for Belgrade's plan for ethnically based administrative units, which the Albanians fear is a first step toward partition. A Kosovar government spokeswoman recently argued that the Serbs had found nothing wrong with voting conditions when they cast their ballots in the June Serbian presidential vote.

For the present, the OSCE -- and most everyone else -- has no choice but to wait for the final word from Serbian political leaders. An OSCE spokesman told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service in Prishtina on 11 August that his organization is disappointed with the three-member coalition's decision not to take part, noting that any decision to boycott the vote will limit the Serbs' range of political options in the future.

Oliver Ivanovic, who is a leader of the influential Serbian Povratak (Return) coalition and a member of the presidency of Kosova's current legislature, told RFE/RL that a final ruling could take time. He stressed that options and consequences of any decision must still be weighed by the Serbian government, the governing coalition in Belgrade, the Serbian government's special body dealing with Kosova, and by Serbia and Montenegro's President Svetozar Marovic. Ivanovic said, "I think that the representatives of [local] Serbs will be invited [to Belgrade] for yet another large round of consultations" before the final decision is reached. He did not rule out that some members of Povratak will take part in the vote while others will not.

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