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news 03 Oct 13

Serbia Threatens to Scupper Kosovo Polls

Serbia said it may advise local Serbs to boycott Kosovo's landmark local elections in November unless Kosovo agrees to include displaced Serbs who want to vote from Serbia.

BIRN Belgrade

Milovan Drecun, chairman of the Serbian parliament's committee on Kosovo, has accused Kosovo of obstructing the spring EU-led deal by refusing to accept voting applications submitted by 39,000 Serbs displaced by the Kosovo conflict of the 1990s.

“Pristina is trying to directly influence the results of the elections, and this is unacceptable," Drecun said.

Serbia said that 39,000 Serbs from Kosovo had filed requests to vote from Serbia, and their right to do so was previously agreed in Brussels.

But Kosovo's Central Electoral Commission in Pristina has turned down the requests on the grounds that voting outside the country is against the law.

Representatives of both Kosovo and Serbia failed to agree on the issue at Tuesday's meeting in Brussels but are due to meet again soon. Local elections in Kosovo are scheduled for November 3.

According to Drecun, Kosovo’s move has called into question the fairness of the elections, prompting Serbia to reconsider its support for them.

"Belgrade cannot call on the Serbs to turn out and vote just to give legitimacy to irregular elections," Drecun added.

Belgrade and Pristina signed a landmark deal under EU auspices in Brussels in April. The deal mainly concerns the rights of the Serb minority, who form a local majority in the country's far north.

The writ of the Kosovo government has never run in this area, which has been governed as a de-facto separate state, supported by neighbouring Serbia.

Under the terms of the Brussels agreement, Serbia agreed to halt direct support for separate institutions in northern Kosovo in exhange for an Association of Serbian Municipalities with broad powers being set up.

The four Serb-run northern municipalities in question are North Mitrovica, Leposavic, Zvecan and Zubin Potok.

Kosovo last held local elections in November 2009, but the vote was boycotted in the northern Serb-run municipalities, where local leaders were elected in a separate vote organised by Belgrade.

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