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Kosovo prepares to vote

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Kosovo prepares to vote

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Kosovars are getting ready to vote tomorrow in the province’s second general election since becoming a UN protectorate in 1999. Most of its 1.3 million voters are expected to back parties led by Kosovo’s moderate president Ibrahim Rugova and former guerrilla leader Hashim Thaci. A coalition government made up of ethnic Albanian parties is the likely outcome although real power will remain with the UN.

But it is feared the election could be marred by Kosovo’s Serb minority which is widely expected to boycott the vote. They are demanding greater guarantees of security and representation.

Serbia’s pro-Western President Boris Tadic has urged them to vote in a move strongly criticised by Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, Serbian nationalist parties and the Serbian Orthodox Church. The West wants an improvement in Kosovo’s record on human rights and the rule of law before starting talks on whether to grant independence to the province. NATO has increased its force there ahead of the election, amid fears of a repeat of the ethnic violence that hit the province in March, killing 19 people.