The nationalist coalition led by President Hashim Thaci's Democratic party is set to win Kosovo's parliamentary election, according to exit polls. Officials said that voter turnout was the lowest ever recorded.
Exit polls showed a hardline coalition led by the ruling center-right Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) winning the most votes in Sunday's snap election.
The PDK-headed coalition garnered 40 percent of the vote, according to a poll published by Klan Kosova TV. The Vetevendosje movement (VV) came in second with 30 percent.
Former Prime Minister Isa Mustafa's coalition, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), came in third with 27 percent. The snap election was called a year early after Mustafa's cabinet collapsed last month.
"Voters showed they trust our coalition," Ramush Haradinaj, the PDK-led coalition's candidate for prime minister, said at a news conference. "With this vote now, we are obliged to form the government, and we will do that."
Haradinaj is a member of the small Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) and was also a commander of the rebels against Serbia's rule over Kosovo between 1998 and 1999.
In April, a court in France denied an extradition request from Serbia for Haradinaj. Serbia considers him a war criminal for leading an insurgency in Kosovo.
Low voter turnout
The country's election commission reported voter turnout at 41.4 percent - the lowest ever recorded in the country. In 2014, voter turnout was at 43 percent.
Local and international observers monitored Sunday's vote, which saw some 1.9 million Kosovars registered to vote in the country's third election since Kosovo declared independence in 2008.
US Ambassador Greg Delawie praised Kosovo's election commission on Twitter, writing: "based on feedback from observers [Kosovo's Central Election Commission] is doing a great job today organizing the elections. Keep it up, more hard work to come."
The new government will now face the difficult task of battling unemployment - which is currently at 30 percent - and striking a border demarcation deal with Montenegro. The latter is the final condition from the European Union to grant visa-free travel to the citizens of Kosovo.
Kosovo declared independence in 2008 and has so far been recognized by 114 countries. Serbia still refuses to recognize Kosovo's independence.
rs/rc (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)