Kosovo set for coalition after poor turnout at polls

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Kosovo is likely to be led into independence by a broad coalition government after elections on Saturday that were marred by apathy among ethnic Albanians and a blanket boycott bythe Serbian minority opposed to the breakaway province declaring its statehood.

Preliminary results showed the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) winning 34 per cent of the votes, making its leader, Hashim Thaci, the clear favourite to become Kosovo's new prime minister if he can cement a coalition partnership. That will almost certainly be with the party's one-time bitter rival, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), which only managed 22 per cent of the votes. "We showed that Kosovo is ready to move forward towards freedom and independence," Mr Thaci told cheering supporters.

But a record low turnout of 45 per cent among the 1.5 million-strong electorate suggests a lack of momentum among the wider population. "People have grown tired with a lack of progress in their everyday lives," said Agron Bajrami, a Pristina-based analyst. "Most of the parties ... have not convinced voters they have a solution to [the] situation."

Kosovo has seen no major investments since the war ended in 1999; the unemployment rate is 50 per cent; and there are daily water and electricity cuts. It is these conditions that Mr Thaci – who helped found the Kosovo Liberation Army which took up arms against Serbia in contrast to the Gandhi-style tactics of the LDK's Ibrahim Rugova – must tackle, as well as navigating the road to independence.

International mediators will begin new talks between the Serbs and Kosovo Albanians tomorrow to try to break the deadlock before the 10 December deadline set by the EU and US. But diplomats say prospects of a deal remain bleak.