Opposition parties beat former guerrillas in Kosovo’s snap poll

Albin Kurti casts his vote, 6 October, Pristina.

Opposition parties on Sunday snap election in Kosovo took the lead over former guerrillas who have dominated politics for the past decade, news wires reported. The leftist-nationalist Vetevendosje (Self-determination party) of Albin Kurti was in first place with 26% of the vote, followed by the centre-right LDK who had 25.2 % after more than three quarters of the ballots were counted, the electoral commission said. The victory of the two opposition parties was a heavy rebuke to parties led by former guerrillas who battled Serbia in the 1990s, paving the way for Kosovo's independence.

"We did not win. We accept the verdict of the people and the PDK moves to the opposition," said Kadri Veseli, leader of the PDK party that has been in power since 2007 and is linked to President Hashim Thaci.

With no camp taking an absolute majority, the opposition parties will need to unite to seal the PDK's place in the opposition. While Vetevendosje and LDK have little overlap ideologically, they have already discussed the possibility of joining forces.

The party with the most votes will be tasked with forming the new government. If the trend continues, it could be Vetevendosje's leader Albin Kurti, a 44-year-old who first gained fame as a student activist protesting Serbian repression in the 1990s before the war. He has since become a strident critic of Kosovo's political elite, and his place at the helm would herald a new era for the young democracy.

Sunday's snap poll was called after ex-prime minister Ramush Haradinaj, a former guerrilla commander, resigned in July to face questioning by a special court in The Hague investigating war crimes from the 1998-99 separatist conflict with Serbia. His party, which was allied with the PDK in the former government but this time ran alone, had one of the weaker showings with 11.6%.

The new leaders will now be under heavy pressure from the West to revive talks with Serbia.


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