The Kosovan election result is yet to be finally declared but the process, initiated when the ruling coalition collapsed in November 2010, has revived political and ethnic tensions. With the turnout high in the first general election since Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) from Serbia in 2008, the result was always going to be close. Incumbent Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi has claimed victory for his Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) over its former coalition partner, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), led by Isa Mustafa. But Albin Kurti's Self-Determination party polled 17 per cent and could hold the balance of power. The main politicians are all from the Albanian community, which constitutes 88 per cent of the population, and can see the substantial participation of ethnic Serb voters in Albanian-surrounded enclaves as proof of the voters' interest in economic rather than ethno-political issues. Kosovo is one of Europe's poorest countries, with an annual per capita income of $2,750 and unemployment currently estimated at 48 per cent, and the economy dominated much of the campaign.

Unfortunately, the wider picture is more disturbing. Serbs form seven per cent of the country's 1.8-million population; in the north, where most of Kosovo's 120,000 Serbs live and which borders Serbia, polling stations were boycotted in response to a call from President Boris Tadiæ in Belgrade. There were also minor skirmishes, and booths closed three hours early, ostensibly for security reasons. The International Court of Justice ruling of July 2010, that the Kosovan UDI was not unlawful, is unlikely to deter Serbia from seeking to annex northern Kosovo. Alternatives such as the decentralisation of Kosovo will almost certainly be rejected by Belgrade. In addition, Mr. Tadic wants European Union membership for Serbia and knows that the Union would not admit Kosovo if the latter were divided like Cyprus. Furthermore, allegations of fraud in Mr. Thaçi's strongholds will intensify tensions even among ethnic Kosovans; the Self-Determination party, citing corruption among the current leaders, has advocated unification with the country's southern neighbour, Albania. In sum, this election settles virtually nothing. The key problem is the absence of leadership from the EU. In cables released by WikiLeaks, American officials condemn the EU's “vacillation” and note a perception in the region that the EU has given up on further expansion. It is Kosovans who will pay the price for this demonstration of its weakness.

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