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Updated: December 12, 2010 23:40 IST

Kosovo votes in historic poll

AFP
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Kosovo voters exercising their franchise at a polling station during the general elections in Pristina on Sunday.
AP
Kosovo voters exercising their franchise at a polling station during the general elections in Pristina on Sunday.

Kosovo voted on Sunday in its first elections since declaring independence in 2008, which look set to weaken Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's grip on power.

Police reported threats to minority Serb voters in North Kosovo but there were no reports of violence.

Opinion polls ahead of the vote showed support for Mr. Thaci's PDK at 30 per cent, just two per cent ahead of its main rival the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) led by Pristina Mayor Isa Mustafa.

Mr. Thaci looked relaxed in a leather jacket as he cast his vote at an elementary school in central Pristina accompanied by his wife and his young son.

“Kosovo is voting today for a European future, for visa liberalisation and (...) and integration into the European Union and the United Nations,” he told a throng of journalists.

Many in the 1.6 million strong electorate are disillusioned with the current leadership with Mr. Thaci's reputation hurt by a string of corruption scandals involving his party officials.

Gunmen threatened the Serb minority in North Kosovo not to take part in the elections, police reported on Sunday.

The gunmen fired on an empty building, in the town of Zubin Potok, and left a written threat, police spokesman Besim Hoti said.

The building is sometimes used by NATO-led peacekeepers and left a written threat.

The ethnic-Albanian majority declared Kosovo independent in February 2008, a move recognised by 72 countries including the U.S. and all but five European Union members.

Serbia, which still considers the territory as its southern province, has advised the 1,20,000-strong Serb minority in Kosovo not to vote.

However, many of the 80,000 Serbs living in enclaves in central Kosovo are expected to go ahead and vote regardless of the boycott call. The majority Serb north, home to 40,000 Serbs, was to boycott the poll, even before Saturday's threats.

Ten out of the 129 parliament seats are reserved for the Serb minority but it could go up to 15 if Serb turnout is high.

More than 10 years after the war between the independence-seeking Albanian majority and forces loyal to then Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, Kosovo remains one of the poorest regions in Europe with nearly half the population living below the poverty line.

The snap elections were called after an uneasy ruling coalition imploded late September.

Keywords: Kosovo polls

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