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Europe

Heavy security ensures peaceful Kosovo poll

Two weeks ago, voting in Serb parts of Kosovo was disrupted by violence, forcing a revote. This time the poll was peaceful. Only time will tell whether it will lead to normalization between Serbs and Albanians.

International police and soldiers of the NATO KFOR mission were posted outside polling stations in North Mitrovica, with a heavy presence of security forces in other parts of the town as well. They only had to intervene once, and that was before voting opened: security forces had to remove members of the paramilitary Serbian Civil Defense Force from one polling station. The press spokesman for the Kosovan police, Baki Kelani, said that, while there had been a few small incidents through the day, at no point were voters in danger.

Violence the first time around

The poll in the majority Serb northern districts of the town of Mitrovica on Sunday (16.11.2013) was necessary because voting on the original election day two weeks earlier had been disrupted by violent attacks by Serb extremists.

A Kosovo Serb woman casts her ballot SASA DJORDJEVIC/AFP/Getty Images

Observers were largely satisfied with the way the polls went

The head of the Kosovo election commission, Valdete Daka, described the additional polling day as "a great success": everything "had gone very well" and the voters had been able to cast their votes peacefully and securely.

According to the Central Electoral Commission in Pristina, Krstimir Pantic - the "Srpska" candidate supported in Belgrade - received 37.06 percent of the votes. Oliver Ivanovic of the Serbian List party garnered 28.53 percent. Two Serbs, therefore, will take part in the runoff on December 1, 2013. Candidates from the Albanian parties will not be represented in the second round.

All the same, turnout remained very low. Only 5,200 of 23,000 eligible voters took part - just 22 percent. Some 1,000 voters had to cast their votes "provisionally," because many Serbs don't have Kosovan identity papers or because their names were not in the voters' lists.

Local elections as a test

The main issue this time, though, was not the turnout but the security of the vote. Directly after the polling stations closed, all the papers needed for the count were taken to the capital Pristina, where, according to Daka, "all the voting slips and the ballot boxes are in safe hands." Results will be announced on Monday.

Serbia hopes that a Serb candidate becomes mayor of North Mitrovica, which would make it possible to form an "Association of Serb Communities," as proposed by Serbia and the European Union. The association is intended to help with the integration of the Serb minority in the country, where 90 percent of the population are ethnic Albanians. In return the Serbs would win more autonomy.

Kosovo, which declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, has been recognized by 105 countries, including 23 of the 28 EU members. Serbia has insisted it will never recognize the independence of its former province, but, in April, the EU managed to mediate an accord to normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia. These local elections are seen as a test of the accord and the process of normalization.

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