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Sunday
Dec122010

Kosovo Holds First Parliamentary Elections Since 2008 Break From Serbia

Kosovo PM Thaci, NATO Sec Gen Rasmussen, June 2010. Photo Courtesy - NATO(PRISTINA, Kosovo) -- 1.6 million people were eligible to vote Sunday in Kosovo's first parliamentary elections since it broke away from Serbia in 2008, although many of the country's ethnic Serbs were expected to boycott the balloting.  Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo as an independent country.

Kosovo's population is almost all ethnic Albanian and Kosovo has strong links to that predominantly Muslim country.  Ethnic Serbs make up only about 5 percent of its population. 

Unemployment in Kosovo is high, at 48 percent, and opposition parties have campaigned hard on that point, as well as on allegations of corruption against the ruling party of Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.  A November no-confidence vote on Thaci and his Democratic Party of Kosovo set up Sunday's balloting, pitting Thaci's party against the Democratic League of Kosovo, led by Isa Mustafa, and other less-powerful challengers.

Thaci, who is leaving his post, is expected to see his party prevail, but it is expected to lose strength to Mustafa's group. 

There have been some violent incidents in the run-up to the vote and 6600 police officers, as well as NATO and EU personnel were patrolling on Sunday to try to stave off more.  Results aren't expected to be complete and official for at least a week.

When Yugoslavia broke up in the 1990s, tension flared between Albanian and Serbian ethnic groups and a brutal civil war broke out in Kosovo.  U.S. troops were a large part of a NATO force sent in to restore peace. 

Kosovo has hopes of joining the European Union and both the E.U. and the U.S. are closely watching this election. 

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