Kosovo Holds Historic Election As Division Persists

(AL Jazeera)

Voters in Kosovo are going to the polls in the territory's first parliamentary elections since its declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008, but there are widespread doubts that the vote will heal ethnic divisions.

Sunday's snap election comes after the coalition government of Hashim Thaci, the prime minister, failed a vote of no confidence on November 2.

About 1.6 million people are eligible to vote for the 120-seat parliament and 29 political parties, coalitions and citizens' initiatives are taking part in the race.

Ten of the parliamentary seats are reserved for minority Serbs, and the electoral commission said that eight of parties on the ballot represent the 120,000-strong community.

However, most Serbs in Kosovo are expected to boycott the elections, heeding calls from Serbia's leaders, who still consider Kosovo part of their country.

In the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica posters called on Serbs to boycott Sunday's election.

"No to elections in the false state of Kosovo," one read.

Thaci has called upon minority Serbs to break with tradition and vote, urging them to build a common future for all Kosovars.

"I believe Kosovo citizens, institutions and people of Kosovo... will achieve high level standard of free and democratic elections," he said.

The main contenders in the election are the two largest political parties, Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo and its former junior coalition partner, Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK).

Polls favour Thaci's party to win the ballot but without a clear majority, indicating that he will likely be forced to seek a coalition partner.

His main rival, the LDK, enters the election bruised by a power struggle, while the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo is weakened because its leader, former fighter Ramush Haradinaj, is being retried on war crime charges by a UN tribunal.
AL Jazeera