Kosovo PM claims victory, rivals refuse to concede

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci greets supporters at his party’s headquarters in the capital Pristina.

Kosovo waited for official results on Monday to confirm Prime Minister Hashim Thaci’s claim of victory in the first general election since independence from Serbia, amid accusations of some vote manipulation.
Thaci’s rivals did not concede, citing suspicions of irregularities in two of his stronghold towns. Supporters of both Thaci’s PDK party and the rival LDK, a former coalition ally, celebrated on Sunday night with firecrackers and honking horns as they drove around town.
“Hopefully, things will get better. But it was strange to see both parties celebrate. We Albanians are impatient. And there’s not much to cheer about at a time when we do not control a part of the country,” said Belul, a newspaper vendor.
Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians make up 92 percent of the population of 2.2 million, declared independence from Serbia in 2008 but Serbs still dominate the north of the country.
Voting took place in a generally calm atmosphere except for minor incidents in the north. Western monitors were expected later on Monday to assess whether the elections were free and fair.
In 1999, NATO forces bombed Yugoslavia for 78 days to stop its Serb-dominated army waging ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Their intervention ushered in nearly a decade of United Nations administration of the former Serbian province.
Now the European Union and the United States view the snap election as a test of Kosovo’s democratic maturity, and a fair vote is a condition for eventual membership of the EU. The new government also has to start talks with Serbia, which has vowed never to recognise Kosovo’s independence.
“Victory is ours,” Thaci, without a tie and with sleeves rolled up, told supporters shortly before midnight on Sunday. “The PDK tonight has registered a historic, deep and decisive victory.”
“The elections were a referendum on the European future of Kosovo,” he added.
The Gani Bobi polling agency said a survey of more than 2,000 voters leaving polling stations found the PDK on 31 percent and the LDK on 25 percent.

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