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news 12 Jun 17

Kosovo Ex-Warriors Take Lead in Election Battle

Broad coalition between former KLA fighters won the largest number of votes in Kosovo’s snap general elections, with opposition Vetevendosje snatching a surprising second, and the coalition led by former ruling Democratic League of Kosovo third.

BIRN Team
BIRN
Pristina

Ramush Haradinaj, left, candidate for prime minister joined by Kadri Veseli, coalition partner, claiming victory in general elections, reacts to the crowd gathered to celebrate in Kosovo capital Pristina early on Monday. Photo: Visar Kryeziu/AP

A grand coalition of 14 parties, headed by the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, and the Initiative for Kosovo, NISMA, came first in the Kosovo snap elections held on Sunday.

The coalition, led by PDK head Kadri Veseli and AAK head Ramush Haradinaj, who is also the coalition’s PM candidate, won 34.6 per cent of the vote, according to Central Election Commission, CEC, preliminary results with 91 per cent of votes counted.

The coalition's leaders and their supporters gathered on Nene Tereza boulevard in central Pristina early on Monday to celebrate their elections results.

"I want to thank AAK and Kosovo’s next Prime Minister, my friend Ramush Haradinaj," bellowed Kadri Veseli, the head of PDK. "The victory of the New Beginning is a great victory for the people of Kosovo, is a victory for our entire sacred republic of Kosovo."

Opposition movement Vetevendosje, which ran alone in the elections, came in second with 26.7 per cent of the vote, while the grand coalition between the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, the New Kosovo Alliance, AKR, and Alternative, came third with 25.8 per cent.

Vetevendosje’s second-place result is the most surprising outcome, as it shows  the movement has more than doubled in popularity since the 2014 parliamentary election, when it secured just below 14 per cent of the vote.

Vetevendosje also celebrated in central Pristina on the other end of the boulevard, claiming great victory for their party. In Zahir Pajaziti square, Pristina mayor Shpend Ahmeti introduced Vetevendosje's Albin Kurti as the next “prime minister.”

“Today, bravery has won over fear, and hope over desperation. Both hope and bravery have won wholeheartedly,” said Kurti.

Srpska Lista, the strongest of the six Serb lists running in the election, won 5.9 per cent of votes, most likely enough to hold all ten seats reserved for Serbs in Kosovo parliament.

The preliminary results published by CEC account for  91 per cent of the vote, but excludes domestic and international absentee voting, as well as special needs voters.

Although voting was to close at 7pm, some polling stations remained open after the cut-off time to allow people who were still waiting in queues to cast their ballots. The overall voter turnout was 41.4 per cent.

According to the CEC, there were no major incidents reported during the voting process.

However, BIRN revealed on the election morning that the coalition between PDK, AAK, and NISMA were planning to infiltrate polling stations with politically affiliated observers registered as members of civil society group called the Regional Institute for Democracy, Human Rights and Political Studies.

Out of 8,800 accredited observers from local NGOs, over half – 4,548 observers – are from this NGO.

Blerand Stavileci, PDK’s head of communications, did not outright deny the allegations, saying “we do not consider that there is a problem.”

The head of the CEC, Valdete Daka, also made a statement later in the day, highlighting that “party members are allowed to be a part of NGOs.”

“We’ve accredited an NGO with 4,000 observers, we cannot carry the responsibility of discerning whether or not they are members of parties,” she said, adding that “observers cannot manipulate voters - they don’t have access to electoral operations.”

All parties running in the election have the right to have a single observer in the polling station, which would limit the pre-electoral coalitions, such as that headed by the Democratic Party of Kosovo and which gathers 14 parties.

Earlier on Sunday, Kosovo’s State Prosecution announced that it filed five criminal cases against seven persons suspected of abusing the election process.

According to the prosecution, the cases have been opened in Pristina, Peja/Pec, Prizren and Ferizaj/Urosevac, and 100 prosecutors are investigating the alleged abuses.

The snap elections were called when the Kosovo government fell before its mandate should have ended, after 78 MPs backed a vote of no confidence against the administration.

The opposition has been demanding elections for two years, mainly because of controversial agreements that the government signed in Brussels in 2015 on the border demarcation with Montenegro – which is still to be voted on in parliament – and on establishing an autonomous Association of Serb-majority municipalities.

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