Kosovo’s imminent declaration of independence has turned the Albanian-majority province into a major election issue ahead of Sunday’s Presidential poll. Analysts say Kosovo’s cultural significance, coupled with wounded pride from the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, may leave emotive Serb voters susceptible to nationalist calls.
Presidential challenger Tomislav Nikolic knows this could change the course of Sunday’s vote: During a rally in Mitrovica, the town seen by many as the symbol of Kosovo’s ethnic divisions, the radical Nikolic vowed not to abandon Serb voters or leave them without protection.
Pro-Western incumbent Boris Tadic, second to Nikolic in the latest polls but seen as having a slight lead in the decisive second round has made joining the EU a priority and is therefore less likely to confront the West over Kosovo.
In total, nine candidates will battle it out in this weekend’s ballot.
Polls have shown, however, that despite the rhetoric, for most voters the future status of Kosovo ranks below issues like the standard of living and unemployment, which nears 30 percent.