Kosovars head to the polls on Sunday for the first general election since the former enclave unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Polls show Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in a close race with Pristina Mayor Isa Mustafa.
AFP - Polling stations opened Sunday in Kosovo's historic elections, the first since its 2008 independence declaration, which look set to weaken Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's grip on power.
The last polls ahead of the vote showed a neck-and-neck race between Thaci's PDK just two percentage points ahead of its main rival the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) led by Pristina mayor Isa Mustafa.
As polling stations opened at 7 am (0600 GMT) there were already dozens of people queuing to vote in central Pristina, mostly the elderly and people voting before going to work.
"I got up early to vote because I'm not happy with the way the country was led. People suffered while politicians benefitted and we have to stop that," 39-year-old construction engineer Shaqir Zeneli told AFP.
Timeline of key events in Kosovo history
1389: The battle of Kosovo that leads to 500-years of Turkish Ottoman rule. This war prompted the mass exodus of Christian Serbs which was referenced by 20th Serbian leaders as the 1990s Yugoslav war began.
1912: Serbia regains control of Kosovo from the Turks.
1946: Kosovo becomes is absorbed into the Yugoslav federation.
1974: Yogoslavia's constitution grants Kosovo de-facto autonomy
1989: Yugoslav President Slobodon Milosevic reverses autonomy approved in the 1974 constitution.
1992: War erupts in the Balkans.
1998: Serbia launches full assault on Kosovar rebels amid ultimatums from NATO to cease hostilities.
1999: Serbian forces withdraw from Kosovo after weeks of heavy air attack from NATO forces.
2008: Kosovo declares independence
Kosovo police and local and international monitors are closely watching the vote.
Analysts predict that Thaci's grip on power will weaken as other parties profit from disappointment among many voters about the way Kosovo has been run. Even if his party manages to remain the biggest in parliament there will be long coalition negotiations and Thaci could be forced to make big compromises in order to cling onto power.
A a key point in Sunday's vote could be the turnout at the 2,280 polling stations in 37 municipalities: a low turnout is expected to favour Thaci while a high turnout could boost the opposition.
More than 1.6 million people are eligible to vote -- more than 70,000 of them for the first time -- in the elections for the 120 seats in the parliament.
It is the first vote since the ethnic-Albanian majority declared Kosovo independent in February 2008.
The early elections were called after an uneasy ruling coalition imploded late September.
Former coalition partners the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) -- led by guerrilla leader turned Prime Minister Thaci-- and the LDK blamed each other for the crisis that ended their alliance.
Date created : 2010-12-12