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
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • 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

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before