Kosovo Premier Thaci Declares Victory After Election Win

Kosovar Prime Minister Hashim Thaci’s political party won the second parliamentary elections since independence from Serbia with a promise to improve living standards in one of Europe’s poorest states.

Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo had 31 percent with almost all the votes counted, the Kosovo Electoral Commission said on its website today. The Democratic League of Kosovo led by former Pristina Mayor Isa Mustafa was second with 26 percent. Turnout was 43 percent.

With unemployment at 35 percent and output per capita at about a 10th of the European Union average, Kosovo must attract investment to replace foreign aid and remittances as its main economic drivers. Serbia must also mend ties with its former province to move closer to EU membership, even as it vows to never formally recognize its 2008 secession.

“All the peoples, all the parties have sent the world the message that democracy in Kosovo works,” Thaci, who would begin a third term should he win the right to build a new coalition, told reporters in the southern city of Prizren just after midnight, according to public broadcaster RTK. “We will go forward to develop our country further.”

The Self Determination movement came third with 14 percent, followed by the Alliance for Future of Kosovo with just below 10 percent, results showed. The Serbian List, one of the parties representing ethnic Serbs who make up less than 10 percent Kosovo’s 1.8 million people, got 4 percent.

Coalition Building

“Thaci will probably offer to make a large coalition with the parties led by Mustafa and Haradinaj to secure a more stable government than he had before the elections,” Nenad Djurjevic, executive director of Forum for Ethnic relations, a a political research company in Belgrade, said by phone. Thaci wants to rely less on Serb lawmakers, which would make it easier to achieve the formation of a Kosovo army, Djurjevic said.

Opposition from ethnic Serbs over a government attempt to create an ethnic Albanian-dominated national army torpedoed the previous parliament, which also suffered from disputes over the sale of state-owned telecommunications company Posta dhe Telekomunikacioni i Kosoves Sh.A.

Thaci Accusations

Thaci must win the support of 61 lawmakers in the 120-member assembly to have a majority. Thaci was part of and later led the Kosovo Liberation Army, a paramilitary group that fought Serbian forces before independence.

Serbia is seeking an international probe into Thaci and other KLA commanders, who were accused in 2010 in a report by the Council of Europe of trafficking the organs of Serb prisoners in 1999, at the height of the conflict when a NATO bombing campaign was driving Serb forces from the region. Thaci has rejected the allegations as a fabrication meant to smear his government.

Since its secession, Kosovo has wrangled with Serbia over property rights, power supply and trade issues. Serbia has accused Kosovo of oppressing its compatriots in what many in the Balkan state consider to be the cradle of Serb heritage.

With the EU demanding Serbia normalize ties with Kosovo as part of its membership path, the government in Belgrade last week urged all Serb voters in Kosovo to take part in the ballot.

Electoral authorities reported no major disturbances during voting yesterday. Some Serbs weren’t allowed to vote in a few polling stations in central Kosovo because they had only Serb identity documents, despite an earlier agreement that all residents be allowed to cast ballot, Serb state broadcaster RTS reported after voting ended.

The 2010 general election in the landlocked Balkan nation, Europe’s second-poorest country according to the World Bank, was marred by irregularities, while violence disrupted some voting in a local ballot last year.

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