Kosovo Set For Mayoral Runoffs That Will Test PM

Kosovar voters will go to the polls on November 14 for runoff mayoral races in 21 of 38 municipal elections in the Balkans' youngest independent state.

The second-round contests following last month's elections are considered a key test for Kosovo's governing Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) party and its prime minister, Albin Kurti.

Kurti's progressive, pro-Albanian party won an unprecedented landslide in February with over half of all votes cast in the country of 1.9 million and among expatriates abroad.

But a mere 10 months later, Self-Determination was the only major party that failed to secure a single mayor's seat in the local elections on October 17.

A Yugoslav-era student leader, the 46-year-old Kurti has repeatedly championed Albanian nationalism, greater "reciprocity" in relations with neighbor Serbia, and a more urgent approach to Pristina's efforts to join international institutions.

In the run-up to the latest voting, Kurti acknowledged that his party's "activism and mobilization" for local elections continues to lag well behind its national allure, which is boosted by the Kosovar diaspora.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 in a move that is still not recognized by Belgrade or Moscow but has been acknowledged by around 110 countries, including the United States and most of the European Union.

Self-Determination could still win out in any of 12 municipalities. including the four major prizes of Pristina, Prizren, Gjilan, and Gjakova.

The other major parties, including the Democratic Party (PDK), the Democratic League (LDK) and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) celebrated local victories last month.

The Belgrade-backed Srpska Lista party won nine of 10 Serb-majority municipalities in mostly northern Kosovo, reaffirming its dominance within the Serbian community.