Independence beckons in Kosovo poll

Kosovo goes to the polls today in what is regarded as the most important election for the province since it broke away from Serbia in 1999 following Nato military intervention.

The voting takes place as the crucial final status talks on the future of the province seemingly head for a deadlock with Serbia refusing to accede to Kosovar demand for full independence.

Hashim Thaci, the former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, and the front-runner in opinion polls, has pledged to bring the independence process forward with a possible unilateral declaration of independence. He has declared: "Immediately after 10 December we will take decisions to make Kosovo an independent and sovereign country."

Serbia has warned that a unilateral move would destabilise the region and is seeking backing from Russia, which under Vladimir Putin, has begun to express strong interest in the Balkans. In July, Moscow blocked a proposal in the United Nations, backed by the US and a number of European countries, for Kosovo to be declared independent.

Serbia is due to hold its own elections in January and there have been claims in Belgrade that a move by the Kosovars to break away would undermine the pro-Western president, Boris Tadic, and swing power towards hard-line Milosevic-era nationalists.

There is already growing disenchantment in Serbia towards the West amid warnings that European Union membership would only follow the handing over of war crimes suspects to the international court in the Hague. Nationalist groups say that the West is now trying to coerce Serbia into accepting the secession of Kosovo as yet another pre-condition to joining.

It may, however, simply be a matter of electoral arithmetic which prevents an immediate confrontation over the independence issue. Despite having the strongest showing at the polls, Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo (DPK) is unlikely to get more than 32 per cent of the votes, not providing enough seats for him to form a government of his own.

Seeking partners for a coalition, say analysts, is also likely to mean that he will have to moderate his stance.

The DPK's biggest rival, the Democratic League of Kosovo (DLK), which was headed by the late president Ibrahim Rugova, a widely respected moderate figure known as the "Gandhi of Kosovo", is expected to obtain 29 per cent of the votes. It has not ruled out forming a government with Mr Thaci but there are major policy differences between the two sides.

A third large party, Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, is led by Ramush Haradinaj, a former KLA commander who stepped down as prime minister last year and is currently in the Hague, facing war crimes charges.

The Kosovo parliament has 120 seats, 100 for the largest ethnic Albanian community and 10 each for Kosovo Serbs and other non-Albanian and non-Serb ethnic groups, such as Roma or Bosniaks. The 120,000 Kosovo Serbs will boycott the elections, after Belgrade and the influential Serbian Orthodox Church called for them to do so, warning that involvement would give legitimacy to a parliament that threatens to declare independence of Kosovo from Serbia.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins wins the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
News
(David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Existing Customer Telephone Consultants

£13000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Every day they get another 1000...

Recruitment Genius: Contract Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line IT Support / Senior Engineer / Support Analyst

£24000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor