Serbia goes to the polls on Sunday. Serbs in Kosovo have also been called on to vote in their electoral districts. But those districts are now located in a different country -- Kosovo -- under UN administration.
Belgrade wants Serbs in Kosovo to vote in parliamentary elections organized by Belgrade
If Belgrade gets its wish, Kosovo's Serbs will be able to vote in Serbian parliamentary and local elections on Sunday, May 11. Serbian citizens who live in Kosovo -- or anywhere else for that matter -- have the right to vote just as those who live in the country do. But there's a catch: Serbia wants to hold elections in Kosovo.
The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which oversees the former Serbian administration, rejects the idea, as do Kosovar Albanians, who see Belgrade as undermining their institutions.
Serbian state local elections in Kosovo would not be recognized and would even be counterproductive if they weren't organized by UNMIK, according to Oliver Ivanovic, head of the Serb List for Kosovo and Metohija, one of the main parliamentary parties in Kosovo.
Only UNMIK, under Joachim Ruecker, may organize elections in Kosovo
"These polls will lead to controversy right from the beginning, because they aren't well prepared technically," he said.
The voter registers of Kosovo Serbs were from 1996, he said, adding that: "Our estimates show that more than 200,000 Serbs and non-Albanians have moved away in the meantime."
"The credibility of these elections is arguable, because according to UN Security Council Resolution 1244, the international community alone is authorized to organize elections on a local or provincial level on Kosovar territory," Ivanovic said.
UNMIK calls the shots
It was clear that Resolution 1244 allowed only UNMIK to organize elections, said Nebojsa Jovic, head of the executive committee of the Serb National Council in Mitrovica, which aims to defend the interests of the Serb minority.
And it was "certainly desirable that the elections were in this way recognized as entirely legitimate by UNMIK," Jovic said. "But we're in a strange situation in which UNMIK head Joachim Ruecker and the international administration declare they will not recognize the local elections. They have to give good reasons for that."
Kosovo declared independence on Feb. 17
The reasons they give are that Belgrade is no longer responsible for local elections because Kosovo declared independence from Serbia.
UNMIK has been responsible for organizing elections in Kosovo ever since the former Serbian province was put under international administration in 1999 and Resolution 1244 was passed in the wake of NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.
Kosovo's president, Fatmir Sejdiu, also rejects Serbia carrying out elections in his county. "Serbia wants [the polls in Kosovo] so that Kosovar institutions are trampled underfoot. We want citizens of Serbian ethnicity to become part of our institutions. That's why these elections are unacceptable to us, and they won't have any validity."
Kosovo's citizens are hardly of one mind on the issue.
"Kosovo is an independent and sovereign state and Serbian elections have no place in our country," said Kosovar Albanian Asan Bitiqi. Slobodan Petkovic, a Kosovo Serb, looked toward the past: "UNMIK prevented neither parliamentary elections nor presidential elections in Serbia," he said. "I don't think they will do it this time either."