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Kosovo Holds First Parliamentary Election

  • Henry Ridgwell

A Kosovo couple prepare to vote at a polling station in general elections in Kosovo's capital Pristina, 12 Dec 2010

A Kosovo couple prepare to vote at a polling station in general elections in Kosovo's capital Pristina, 12 Dec 2010

Kosovo is holding its first parliamentary election since it declared independence from Serbia nearly three years ago.

The polls opened this morning across Kosovo, but while voting stations in Pristina and the south saw a steady stream of voters, most in the Serb-dominated north were deserted.

Many of Kosovo's Serb minority - outnumbered 18 to 1 by ethnic Albanians - are boycotting the vote.

One Kosovan Serb resident named Dragan from the volatile town of Mitrovica explains why he is staying away from the polls. "These elections were not organized by my country," he said. "They are organized by a state which for me does not exist and that is why I am not going to vote."

The boycott threatens to undermine the authority of the Pristina government.

And while the election has been largely peaceful, shots were fired at a house used by NATO forces in the north.

Captain Hannes Wichtler, spokesman for the NATO mission in Kosovo, said "As far as we know there was obviously some destruction, some window panes broken, some shots against the wall and then a letter was found and we, together with the police, are investigating this incident so far."

A Serb group calling itself White Eagles claimed responsibility for the attack - and also said it carried out the killing of a Bosniak election official last week.

With unemployment in Kosovo at a staggering 45 percent the ailing economy has dominated the campaign.

At a polling station in Pristina, voter Njazi Mustafa explains what decided his vote. He says we are hoping to select politicians who are not corrupt and who will benefit the people of Kosovo."

Former Prime Minister Hashim Thaci was forced to call an early election after the coalition government fell apart.

Polls showed his party had a narrow lead in the run up to the vote, but not enough for an outright majority.

Only 70 countries recognized Kosovo's independence in 2008, nearly a decade after the NATO-led conflict wrested control of the region from Belgrade.

A fair and peaceful election is seen as vital for Kosovo's hopes of joining the European Union.

Early results are expected Monday.

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