Kosovo Prime Minister Thaci Declared Victor In Preliminary Election Results

Last updated (GMT/UTC): 13.12.2010 15:00


The party of incumbent Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has been named the preliminary winner of the December 12 parliamentary vote in Kosovo -- the first general election there since the territory's ethnic Albanian leaders declared independence from Serbia nearly three years ago.

Kosovo’s electoral commission said Thaci’s Democratic Party Of Kosovo (PDK) won with 33.5 percent of the total vote, while its main rival and former coalition partner, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) took 23.6 percent of the vote.

Both the PDK and LDK say they back the reforms needed for eventual European Union and NATO membership for Kosovo.

A new radical nationalist party, Vetevendosje – or Self-Determination -- is in third place.

Votes from 23 polling stations are still being counted.

Valdete Daka, the head of the Central Election Commission, said the elections were "very successful." She said it is now up to the Election Complaints and Appeals Panel (ECAP) has to determine whether there were irregularities. She had earlier said that there had been "technical hitches" in the voting.

Thaci didn’t wait for the commission to announce the results. He claimed victory late on December 12, telling a party rally in Pristina that his Democratic Party Of Kosovo (PDK) had won a "major victory" for "democratic and Euro-Atlantic values."

"We should avoid divisions, we should work together," Thaci said. "Only then will Kosovo win, as it won tonight."

He made the speech after an exit poll put his party in the lead, with 31 percent. The German news agency DPA quoted him as calling the vote "a referendum of citizens on our good governing."

If the preliminary results are confirmed, Thaci will need support from other parties to form a government.

Following Thaci’s claim of victory on December 12, RFE/RL’s Balkan Service says the streets of Pristina filled up with rival PDK and LDK supporters waving flags and honking horns. But there were no reports of violence, with police keeping the two sides apart.

Posters in the Serb-controlled part of the ethnically divided Kosovo town of Mitrovica called for a boycott of the weekend's elections.As in past elections, Belgrade, which still considers the territory its southern province, called on the 120,000-strong ethnic Serbian minority in Kosovo not to vote. In past elections turnout among ethnic Serbs was around two percent.

This time, turnout among Serbs living in enclaves in central Kosovo was reportedly higher than in previous elections.

However, turnout among Serbs living in the north remained very low despite the establishment of mobile polling stations there.

The U.S. State Department’s Toner decried what he called "the atmosphere of threats, intimidation, and violence from Serbian sources directed for weeks against Kosovo Serbs in northern Kosovo," which he said had "clearly prevented many [people] there from exercising their democratic rights."

The snap election was called after parliament overwhelmingly backed a no-confidence motion last month, which brought down the government that led the country to independence from Serbia in February 2008.

Fighting corruption and an unemployment rate of nearly 50 percent have been the main issues for voters during the election campaign.

In the almost three years since then, Kosovo has struggled to establish itself as an independent country.

So far some 70 countries, including the United States and most EU members, have recognized Kosovo as an independent country. Serbia's ally Russia has been among the countries opposing the territory's membership as an independent state in the United Nations.

In September, Serbia backed a UN resolution paving the way for dialogue with Kosovo, even as the government maintains it will never recognize its former province as a sovereign state.

The start of that dialogue has been delayed due to Kosovo’s political crisis.

written by Antoine Blua and Richard Solash, with contributions from RFE/RL's Balkan Service and agency reports

Copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.