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EU Observers Say Kosovo Polls 'Transparent' Despite Examples Of 'Intimidation'

Albin Kurti, leader of the leftist Vetevendosje party, is expected to enter coalition talks with the center-right Democratic League of Kosovo.

PRISTINA -- European Union observers say Kosovo's parliamentary elections were "well-administered and transparent," but pointed out shortcomings including the "intimidation" of ethnic Serbs by the main party representing the country's Serb minority.

According to nearly-final preliminary results, the leftist-nationalist Vetevendosje won the October 6 snap elections, but the party did not garner enough votes to rule on its own and is expected to enter coalition talks with the center-right Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK).

The head of the EU Election Observation Mission, European Parliament member Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, presented the preliminary findings of the mission on October 8, saying the campaign was "vibrant and competitive" while election day was "orderly."

However, the campaign environment in the Kosovo Serb areas was "marred by intimidation, which targeted non-Srpska Lista candidates and supporters," a statement said.

"Misuse of public resources and a lack of transparency concerning campaign finance resulted in an uneven playing field throughout Kosovo," it added.

With more than 99 percent of the ballots counted, results from the Central Election Commission showed Vetevendosje garnered 25.5 percent of the vote followed by LDK with 24.8 percent.

The former ruling party, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), which has dominated politics for more than a decade, placed third with 21.2 percent of the vote, while the coalition of outgoing Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosovo had 11.5 percent.

The turnout was 44 percent, a slight improvement on the previous election two years ago.

Vetevendosje’s leader, former student protest leader Albin Kurti, pledged on October 7 to work quickly to try and form a coalition government with LDK, whose prime ministerial candidate is Vjosa Osmani.

Urging Reforms

In a joint statement, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn urged the upcoming government to "swiftly resume work on reforms in support of economic and social development as well as rule of law, on the implementation of the EU-Kosovo Stabilization and Association Agreement and on the EU-facilitated Dialogue with Belgrade."

Mogherini and Hahn said they "expect all political actors to remain committed to these processes, which are key for Kosovo's future, for progress on its European path, and most importantly for the benefit of the people of Kosovo and of the whole region."

The early election was triggered by Haradinaj’s resignation in July after war crimes prosecutors at The Hague summoned him for questioning over his wartime role as a commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK).

The election campaign was dominated by the issues of corruption, high unemployment, and a possible peace deal with Serbia that would clear the way for Kosovo's membership in the United Nations.

Kosovo's independence has been recognized by more than 110 states but not by others, including five EU members, as well as Serbia, Russia, and China.

European Union-sponsored talks aimed at normalizing ties between Pristina and Belgrade stalled last year over Kosovo's decision to impose a 100 percent tax on goods from Serbia.

Kosovo has Europe’s youngest population with an average age of 29, and economic growth has averaged 4 percent over the past decade. But it remains very poor -- unemployment is 25 percent -- and more than 200,000 Kosovars have left and applied for asylum in the European Union since Pristina won its independence.