It is election day in Kosovo, with the province’s long-term future at stake.
Nominally part of Serbia and Montenegro, this impoverished part of Europe has been under international administration since NATO’s intervention in 1999. But calls for independence are growing with two men leading the way. The Democratic League of Kosovo headed by the province’s president Ibrahim Rugova is widely expected to win the backing of much of the 90-percent majority Albanian population. Its main challenge comes from the Democratic Party of Kosovo, with former rebel leader Hashim Thaci at the helm. In all, 33 parties are competing for places in the province’s 120 seat parliament, with ten seats specially reserved for the Serb minority and a further ten earmarked for other ethnic groups. The ballot comes ahead of UN-brokered talks on Kosovo’s future status. But it is feared it could be marred by a boycott by the Serb community whichwants greater guarantees of security and representation. Ahead of polling, police patrolled Serb areas in a bid to provide reassurance. NATO’s peacekeeping force has been reinforced in the run-up to the election amid fears of a repeat of ethnic violence in March when Albanian mobs went on the rampage leaving 19 people dead and hundreds of homes in ruins.