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Both major parties claim victory in landmark elections

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-11-16

Both main parties have claimed victory in the country’s first election since independence, with surprising numbers of minority Serbs joining in the vote.

Kosovo has "passed a test" after completing elections in which both major democratic parties were confident of victory.

Observers said the vote had passed off well, with turnout among minority Serbs higher than expected in central and southern Kosovo where around 80,000 out of 120,000 members of the community live.

According to the electoral commission, some 45% of the 1.5 million eligible voters voted for mayors and local representatives in what Serbia views as a renegade southern province.

Marco Prelec, the Balkans project director for the International Crisis Group, said the elections were a landmark in the country's move towards becoming a fully functioning nation state.

"It is a big step forward," he told FRANCE 24. "There remain some serious concerns and there is still much room for improvement. But this was a test passed by the new government.

"The surprisingly large turnout by [minority] Serbs in the south of the country is a real signal that they are willing to enter into a pragmatic relationship with the Kosovo government."

Claims of victory

Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said his Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) won convincingly in 20 out of 36 municipalities in Sunday's local elections.

"The victory of the PDK presents a referendum about good governance in the Republic of Kosovo," he told to hundreds of his followers who were chanting his name.

On the other side, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) of President Fatmir Sejdiu, which is the junior partner in the governing coalition, claimed absolute victory in the capital of Pristina by wining the mayor's post and a majority in the local assembly.

"It was a good day for the LDK," vice-president of LDK, Lutfi Haziri, told reporters, claiming his party won also in several important Kosovo's municipalities.

Independence

Kosovo citizens went to the polls Sunday for the first time since the ethnic Albanian majority declared independence from Serbia in February 2008.

Its independence has been recognised by 63 countries including the United States and the most of the European Union.

Despite its previous promise, the electoral commission failed to release the first preliminary results of the vote by Sunday midnight. It released only preliminary results for nine small municipalities.

"It was not possible to complete the results in such a short time," chairwoman of the election commission, Nesrin Lushta, told reporters, promising the complete results by late Monday afternoon.

Celebrations

However, thousands of supporters of both parties celebrated separately on Sunday evening by taking the streets of Pristina, honking their car horns, waving party flags and setting off firecrackers.

International observers were expected to announce Monday afternoon if the vote met standards.

Runoffs will be held on December 13 in municipalities where candidates fail to win more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round.

Date created : 2009-11-16

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