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Kosovo Center-Right PDK Coalition Scores Parliamentary Win; VV Set To Finish Second

  • RFE/RL

PRISTINA -- The ruling center-right Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) was heading toward victory in the country's snap parliamentary elections, but it seems unlikely to win enough seats to govern even with its planned coalition partners.

The June 11 vote also confirmed the strong rise of the leftist Self-Determination Movement (VV) party, which nearly doubled its support since the last election and looked set to finish second in the overall vote.

With more than 90 percent of the ballots counted, the coalition headed by the PDK of President Hashim Thaci was leading with 34.65 percent of the vote, according to the Central Election Committee.

Ramush Haradinaj, the PDK-led coalition’s candidate for prime minister, declared victory during a press conference in Pristina, though he did not provide specific numbers.
Ramush Haradinaj, the PDK-led coalition’s candidate for prime minister, declared victory during a press conference in Pristina, though he did not provide specific numbers.

The PDK coalition includes former prime minister and rebel leader Ramush Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK).

The nationalist VV, also known as Vetevendosje, had 26.59 percent of the vote, just ahead of a coalition led by outgoing Prime Minister Isa Mustafa's Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) with 25.82 percent.

If those results are borne out, no single group would be able to govern alone, making further coalition attempts likely.

Final distribution of seats is unlikely to come before June 12 or even later in the week, official have said. Turnout was put at 41.79 percent.

Albert Krasniqi from Democracy In Action, a coalition of nongovernmental organization monitoring the elections, said voting took place peacefully. The head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Jan Braathu, said the process “seems to be going smoothly.”

PDK and VV voters took to the streets to celebrate in Pristina, Kosovo's capital.

This was the country’s third election since it declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move recognized by 114 countries, but not by Serbia and Russia.

Haradinaj, the PDK-led coalition’s candidate for prime minister, declared victory during a press conference in Pristina, though he did not provide specific numbers.

"The coalition's victory is very convincing," he said.

WATCH: Voters in the town of Gracanica cast ballots in Kosovo's early parliamentary elections on June 11. Gracanica is the home to a medieval Serbian Orthodox monastery and is one of the centers of the Serb minority in Kosovo. (RFE/RL's Balkan Service)

The PDK coalition, with a large number of former guerrilla fighters, has been dubbed the "war wing" by Kosovo's media.

If Haradinaj does assume the prime minister role, it would complicate relations with neighboring Serbia, which has issued an international arrest warrant against him on suspicion of committing war crimes when he was a guerrilla fighter during Kosovo’s 1998-99 independence war.

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

His coalition and allies appeared unlikely to get the 51 seats in the 120-member parliament needed to govern.

The chief of the Kosovo Election Commission, Valdete Daka, said there were no major irregularities reported that would undermine the integrity of the election.
The chief of the Kosovo Election Commission, Valdete Daka, said there were no major irregularities reported that would undermine the integrity of the election.

Parliamentary rules reserve 20 seats for ethnic Serbs and other minorities. The PDK is looking to form a coalition with the 10 deputies representing the non-Serb minorities, including ethnic Turks and Roma.

Any new cabinet will have a tough job dealing with many problems facing the country, which is predominantly populated by ethnic Albanians.

Many of Kosovo's 1.8 million inhabitants blame politicians from all sides for a stubbornly high unemployment rate that hovers around one-third of the workforce despite solid economic expansion of about 4 percent annually in one of the poorest countries in Europe.

ALSO READ: Kosovo's Reassuringly Low-Key Elections Could Be Prelude To 'Harsh Realities'

Other key priorities the next government faces include establishing better control over privatization and creating a functioning war crimes court and prosecution office, which would start the process of sidelining wartime leaders from political and public life.

Yet the biggest issues surrounding the vote are a pair of agreements signed in 2015: one setting the border with Montenegro and another with Serbia that increases powers held by ethnic Serbs in Kosovo.

Those issues have helped stalled reforms in the legislature and angered the electorate in a country where about one-third of the population is under the age of 15.

“For more than a year we didn't have a functional government, and now I don’t trust them,” said Islam Fehmiu, a retiree from the capital, Pristina.

“Parliament couldn't finish its sessions. I have very low hopes. The preelection coalitions are looking out only for their own interests and I absolutely think they won’t solve ongoing issues such as border demarcation with Montenegro,” Fehmiu added.

The election marked the rise of the Self-Determination Movement, which was a disruptive opposition force in the previous parliament and would make any coalition-building difficult. VV party supporters at one time released tear gas inside parliament and threw firebombs outside it to protest the deals with Montenegro and Serbia.

Albin Kurti, the party's candidate for prime minister, said the VV would fight corruption, jail former officials, end talks with Serbia, and seek a closer union with neighboring Albania.

With reporting by Alan Crosby and Amra Zejneli in Pristina, and Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels, AP, BBC, and Reuters
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