Prime Minister Hashim Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo claimed victory in parliamentary polls to secure a third term in office despite a low turnout at Sunday’s vote.
Thaci said after polls closed that his Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, had won the elections, although the Central Election Commission reported a turnout of only 43.2 per cent.
‘As of tomorrow morning we will continue to fulfil our duties. As of tomorrow we will start to implement our ‘New Mission’,’ former Kosovo Liberation Army leader Thaci said in a speech on Sunday night.
After more than 94 per cent of the votes were counted by Monday morning, Thaci’s PDK was leading with 31.24 per cent with the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) led by former Pristina mayor Isa Mustafa running second with 26.11 per cent.
The ‘Vetevendosje’ (Self Determination) movement was third with 13.73 per cent, followed by the Alliance for Future of Kosovo on 9.65 per cent, the Central Election Commission said.
The polls passed off peacefully and no major irregularities were noted, although NGOs monitoring the vote said their observers had witnessed thousands of cases of family voting and other incidents of voters being bribed.
For the first time since Pristina declared independence in 2008, the authorities in Belgrade encouraged Kosovo Serbs to vote in the polls, but despite this, turnout was much lower than the nationwide average in the Serb-dominated north of the country.
The ‘Srpska’ List, representing Kosovo Serbs, polled 2.91 per cent of the vote, according to the CEC.
The elections, which were held early, were considered to be crucial for the future integration of the Serb north which will have an impact on Belgrade’s EU ambitions, while the outcome will also be an important milestone on Kosovo’s European path.
The EU, which has been brokering talks on normalizing relations between Pristina and Belgrade, said it was looking forward to continuing its close ‘engagement and commitment to Kosovo with the new government after the elections’.
The outcome of the polls was the most uncertain since Kosovo declared independence.
Thaci has ruled for more than six years, but his government has been blamed for widespread corruption, poverty and unemployment.
While most of the parties praised the election process, the LDK announced it would not accept the results if there were major irregularities. Tracey Ann Jacobson, US ambassador, urged authorities to act responsibly during the count.
Aiming to ensure that voting was not marred by violations, around 100 prosecutors were on duty across the country alongside 27,733 election observers.
The State Prosecutor’s Office said it was investigating several cases involving more than ten people who allegedly bribed voters in the Mitrovica and Lipjan regions.
In the last general elections in Kosovo in 2010, the PDK won 32.11 per cent of the votes, the LDK won 24.69 per cent, Vetevendosje gained 12.69 per cent, Ramush Haradinaj’s Alliance for the Future of Kosovo won 11.04 per cent and Behgjet Paccolli’s New Kosovo Alliance won 7.29 per cent.
Turnout at the 2010 polls was higher than on Sunday, with 47.8 per cent casting their ballots.