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Voting Ends In Kosovo Poll

Electoral posters featuring Hashim Thaci, Kosovo's caretaker prime minister, in Pristina.
Electoral posters featuring Hashim Thaci, Kosovo's caretaker prime minister, in Pristina.
Voting has ended in Kosovo's early parliamentary elections, which were called after the legislature was dissolved last month.

Hashim Thaci is bidding for a third term as prime minister in the June 8 vote. Thaci said after casting his vote in the capital, Pristina, that the poll shows that democacy "is evolving" in Kosovo.

The former political leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army currently is the caretaker prime minister and leads the Democratic Party of Kosovo.

An exit poll gave PDK a narrow lead with 33 percent. The exit poll put the opposition Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) in second place with 30 percent.

Thaci is facing a strong challenge from the LDK , which is led by Isa Mustafa.

Two other important contenders are the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, and the nationalist Self-Determination Party.

Much of the 1.8-million-strong population has become disillusioned by a lack of economic progress in Kosovo -- where the official unemployment rate is about 35 percent.

Thaci also is under pressure from voters who are angry about corruption and a war crimes investigation that threatens to ensnare former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

The June 8 vote will determine the composition of the parliament, which will then select Kosovo's next prime minister.

Political analysts say no single party is likely to win enough votes to govern without forming a coalition.

The legislature has 120 members who are elected for three-year terms.

Of those, 100 seats are determined by proportional representation while 20 seats are reserved for lawmakers who represent national minorities.

Those reserved seats include at least 10 for Serbs; four for Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptians; three Bosniaks; two ethnic Turks; and one Gorani.
Voting Begins In Kosovo
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(WATCH: Voting Begins In Kosovo)

If Thaci’s political allies win enough seats to secure him a third term as prime minister, Thaci is expected to come under immediate pressure from the West to heed the findings of an investigation by a special European Union task force into allegations that Kosovo’s guerrilla army harvested organs from Serb prisoners and sold them on the black market during the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo.

That task force is expected to issue its findings within weeks.

It was set up after a 2011 report by the Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty that pointed at Thaci and other former guerrillas -- including four high-ranking members of Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo and candidates for parliament.

Thaci has dismissed the allegations as an outrage.

For the first time since Kosovo's self-declared independence in 2008, Serbia has encouraged ethnic Serbs to vote, a move seen as likley to help Blegrade's EU membership bid.

Belgrade and Pristina last year came to an agreement to normalize relations as a pre-condition for their bids to become members of the EU.

The Central Election Commission said on its website that the turnout was over 43 percent.

Preliminary official results are expected by midnight.
With reporting by AP and Reuters
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