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Violence in Kosovo election undermines Belgrade's attempts to normalise relations with Pristina


Kosovo

Violence in Kosovo election undermines Belgrade's attempts to normalise relations with Pristina

Municipal elections in Kosovo have been marred by violence with masked men attacking several polling stations in the Serbian populated north.

Suspected hardline ethnic Serbs are thought to be responsible for setting off tear gas canisters and smashing ballot boxes in the divided town of Mitrovica.

For the first time the Serbs had been encouraged to vote but as the polls closed there were concerns of a low turnout.

Mayoral candidate Krstimir Pantic said he expected the elections in Mitrovica to be annulled and new ones declared but not before law and order had been restored.

Some Kosovar Serbs were concerned that if they cast their ballots they would be legitimising the state’s 2008 unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia.

However the election had the backing of both the ethnic Albanian majority and Belgrade whose government is trying to normalise relations with Kosovo.

A low turnout among the ethnic Serbs would be a blow to Serbia who wants to join the European Union. The reward for supporting the Kosovo poll is EU membership talks expected to start in January.

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