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News 23 Oct 13

Half Kosovo Serbs May Shun Elections, Report Says

Despite calls from Serbia to vote in Kosovo's November 3 local elections, over 40 per cent Serbs in northern Kosovo seem unwilling to participate, a recent UNDP report says.

Pristina

The report, published by the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, says that while it is “encouraging" that 16 per cent of Serbs in northern Kosovo will definitely vote on November 3, and another 17 per cent "may" vote, 44 per cent said they would not vote.

The same survey also said that 48 per cent of the Serbs in the north of Kosovo apparently did not know which parties were running the elections, and 47 per cent did not know the names of the candidates running as mayors.

The survey was conducted in early October in North Mitrovica, Zvecan, Zubin Potok and Leposavic on the basis of 400 interviews.

The result of the poll will disappoint officials who have called for a mass turnout in the elections on November 3, which some have dubbed historic.

This is because the government of Serbia has for the first time placed its own authority behind the calling of the elections, which are designed to pave the way towards the establishment in Kosovo of an association of Serbian municipalities, entrusted with broad powers of self-government.

The political legitimacy of the association will obviously depend to a degree on the size of the turnout in the north, where most Kosovo Serbs are concentrated and where they form the majority community in four municipalities.

The November 3 polls form a crucial part of implementing an EU-mediated agreement between the governments of Kosovo and Serbia intended to "normalise" relations. [Serbia does not recognise Kosovo's independence proclaimed in 2008.]

Mytaher Haskuka, from the UNDP, said the results were not necessarily conclusive. “A lot of things may happen in the meanwhile, that’s why the number of Serbs who will vote on November 3 is unpredictable,” he said.

The last local elections in Kosovo were held in November 2009, but most people in the northern, Serb-run municipalities ignored the poll, and elected their own leaders in a separate vote organised by Serbia.

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