Ethnic Serbs boycott Kosovo elections

The low turnout of ethnic Serbs in the
provincial elections has cast doubt on
the future of talks over Kosovo’s possible
independence from Serbia.

Kosovo’s President, Ibrahim Rugova has declared
victory for his Democratic League for Kosovo
following elections in the province on 23
October. According to early results, Rugova’s
party will have won about 47 per cent of the
vote although the first official results are only
expected later on 25 October. The Democratic Party
of Kosovo has reportedly come a distant second.

Despite an overall voter turnout of 53 per cent, the
elections were marred by the boycott of ethnic Serbs.
According to some reports, less than one per cent of
eligible Serb voters took part in the elections.

To date, Kosovo remains legally part of Serbia
although a majority of Kosovo Albanians, making up
about 90 per cent of the population, would like
to see Kosovo as a sovereign state. Since 1999, the
province has been governed by the UN and supervised by
NATO. The UN had hoped that the so-called
‘Vienna talks’, whose objective is to pave the
way towards negotiating Kosovo’s possible
independence, could begin in 2005. Open support for
a boycott by Serbian leaders, including Prime
Minister Vojislav Kostunica, however, casts doubt over
the future of the Vienna talks. Kostunica will now
have to decide whether to recognise Kosovo’s
new parliament and emerging government.

On 24 October, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan praised
the Serbs “who voted and those who stood as
candidates for their courage in the face of severe
contrary pressure”. In a press release, Annan called
on Kosovo’s political leaders to respect the result
of the election.


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