News / Europe

    PM Thaci's Party Claims Victory in Kosovo Poll

    A Kosovo Albanian woman places her ballot paper into a voting box at the polling station in the capital city Pristina, June 8, 2014.
    A Kosovo Albanian woman places her ballot paper into a voting box at the polling station in the capital city Pristina, June 8, 2014.
    VOA News
    The ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo is claiming victory and a likely third term for Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.
     
    Early results from Sunday's parliamentary election give the party 31 percent of the vote while the main opposition Democrat League of Kosovo has 25 percent.
     
    A non-partisan exit poll also puts Thaci's party in front.
     
    The former guerilla fighter is the only leader Kosovo has had since winning independence from Serbia in 2008.
     
    He says a successful election will send a message to Europe that Kosovo is a democracy.

    "Today is a special day for our country and for the citizens of Kosovo. I congratulate all of Kosovo's citizens. I call upon them to take part in the elections, for the elections to be fair, and to send a message to Europe that we are a democratic country," Thaci said.
     
    Challenges ahead

    Thaci's popularity soared when the former independence rebel announced a break from Serbia in 2008, but political analyst Nexhmedin Spahiu said it was far from certain he would win re-election since "he has been weakened politically by his failure to address the main challenges in our society," the French news agency AFP reported.
     
    Frustration with Kosovo's progress is running high among many of its 1.8 million people, who rank among Europe's poorest.

    Landlocked Kosovo has one of the lowest living standards in Europe, with average monthly wages of 350 euros ($476), nearly half the population living in poverty.
     
    Unemployment is stuck at 35 percent, rising to 55 percent among the young, according to the Kosovo Statistics Bureau.

    Four hours before the polls closed, only 25 percent of eligible voters had cast their ballots, the electoral commission reported. That was nearly 10 percent less compared with 2010 elections turnout at the same time, AFP reported.

    However all eyes were on the turnout from the Serb minority in the north, voting for the first time since Kosovo broke away from Serbia, where first reports indicated a
    low number of voters at the polling stations.
     
    A high turnout from the 120,000-strong Serb community would be seen as a boost to Thaci's dream of joining the 28-nation EU, after last year's historic agreement on improving Kosovo's ties with Belgrade.
     
    Although Serbia still rejects Kosovo's independence, it has encouraged Serbs to vote, to strengthen the 2013 deal which allowed it to begin its own EU entry talks.

    Voters weigh in

    Faik Mustafa voiced optimisms that "these elections would make a change for better".
     
    "We had high expectations from independence, but little came true," a 49-year-old driver told AFP after casting his ballot.

    However, some voters voiced their displeasure.

    “This old class of politician has been around for 15 years and had plenty of time to profit,” said Muhamet Maqastena, a trader in the capital, Pristina. “It's time for them to go and let the young, educated people govern us.”
     
    Valbona Bajraktari, a 37-year-old unemployed woman, said her expectations were not high. “The only thing I want is for them not to steal or to hire their aunts,” she told Reuters.
     
    Kosovo's prime minister, Hashim Thaci, joined by his wife, Lumnije, casts his ballot at a polling station in the Kosovo capital of Pristina, June 8, 2014. KKosovo's prime minister, Hashim Thaci, joined by his wife, Lumnije, casts his ballot at a polling station in the Kosovo capital of Pristina, June 8, 2014. K
    x
    Kosovo's prime minister, Hashim Thaci, joined by his wife, Lumnije, casts his ballot at a polling station in the Kosovo capital of Pristina, June 8, 2014. K
    Kosovo's prime minister, Hashim Thaci, joined by his wife, Lumnije, casts his ballot at a polling station in the Kosovo capital of Pristina, June 8, 2014. K

    Fighting back, Thaci's government raised public sector wages, pensions and social welfare benefits two months ago by 25 percent. That directly affects 240,000 teachers, doctors, police officers, pensioners and others, and even more indirectly.
     
    Thaci has promised to do the same every year if given a new four-year mandate.
     
    “Our state is a new European state, a state that has great opportunities, and I'm committed to making the most of them,” Thaci said after voting in a Pristina school.
     
    If he wins a third term, Thaci will come under immediate pressure from the West to heed the findings of a war crimes investigation that threatens to ensnare his former comrades-in-arms.

    Within weeks, a special European Union task force is expected to issue the findings of an investigation into allegations that Kosovo's guerrilla army harvested organs from Serb prisoners of war and sold them on the black market during a 1998-99 conflict.
     
    The investigation followed a 2011 report by Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty that pointed the finger at Thaci and other ex-rebels, including four senior members of the prime minister's Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and candidates for parliament.
     
    Thaci has dismissed the allegations as an outrage, a bid to tarnish the Kosovo Albanian fight for freedom that eventually won NATO air support.
     
    Fight against Serbia

    The West wants a court set up abroad to hear the case because of witness intimidation in Kosovo and a graft-riddled legal system. That will require changes to the law and constitution.
     
    Thaci was one of the leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army that took up arms in the late 1990s to break free from the repressive rule of Serbia under strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
     
    NATO intervened in 1999 with 78 days of air strikes against Serbia, trying to halt the massacre and mass expulsion of Kosovo Albanians by Serbian forces waging a counter-insurgency.
     
    Kosovo declared independence almost a decade later and has been recognized by more than 100 countries, but not Serbia or its big-power backer Russia, which is blocking the young state's accession to the United Nations.
     
    Its economy is forecast to grow by at least 3 percent this year, driven by construction and cash sent home by Albanians working abroad. Even that, however, is not enough to absorb the thousands of jobseekers entering the workforce every year in what is Europe's youngest society.

    Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AFP.   

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora