Thaci party claims victory in local vote

PRIŠTINA -- The ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo (DPK), led by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, claimed victory in Sunday’s local elections in Kosovo.

Serbs lost the elections in two municipalities in which they make up the majority of the population – Štrpce and Novo Brdo, said reports.

More Albanians than Serbs participated in the elections in Štrpce, even though Serbs make up 70 percent of the municipality's population.

According to unofficial results, the candidates of the Democratic Party of Kosovo and the Serb Independent Liberal Party have entered the second round of elections in Štrpce.

Unofficial results stated that this Serb party has won the elections in Gračanica, and the president in the newly-formed municipality will be the party’s candidate Bojan Stojanović.

The Liberal Party will have the majority of assembly officials in Gračanica, as well.

The Democratic Union of Kosovo’s candidate Isa Mustafa has won the race for Priština, according to initial results.

In the seven larger municipal centers, DPK announced victories in Gnjilane, Uroševac and Prizren.

Party Vice President Hajredin Kuci said at a press conference that the party has increased the number of municipalities in which it has won or entered the second round of elections.

The Alliance for the Future of Kosovo claimed victory in the municipalities of Peć and Đakovica, adding that they are leading in 16 other municipalities.

Some 700,000 registered voters participated in the local elections, which is more than 45 percent of voters, according to the Central Election Commission in Priština.

The local elections were the first that were organized interim Kosovo institutions.

According to the election commission, the turnout in Serb-dominated areas was as follows: Leposavić 0.83, Zubin Potok 6.64, Zvečan 0.75.

Gračanica 23.62, Ranilug 13.89, Klokot 25.39, Novo Brdo 25.64 Štrpce 30.91 percent.

Belgrade’s authority “shaken”

Oliver Ivanović says that the participation of Kosovo Serbs in the local elections shows that Belgrade’s influence in the province has been shaken.

The Kosovo Ministry’s state secretary said that because of this, Belgrade’s policies towards the province "will have to change".

He said that the stance of the state towards the local elections and the participation of Serbs has not changed, even after the news that Kosovo Serbs won local elections in two municipalities.

Ivanović told B92 that the local elections in Kosovo "created an atmosphere that no one is taking care of Serbs in central Kosovo".

The decision of several thousand Serbs to participate in the voting will not go without political consequences, Ivanović said.

“This is not a question of solving local problems, even though by nature, the local self-administration should deal with this. It is a very clear political signal. If, even with the Serbian government and president’s stance to not participate, two thousand people in Gračanica participated, this shows that we are not enough of an authority,” Ivanović said.

“The fact is that in two municipalities in the central part of Kosovo Serbs did not listen to what the government said. I think they were more likely to listen to other messages. That must worry us, who are government members for them too. It should worry us because I believe that in this way, there was a crack made between the Serbian people and the government in Belgrade,” he said.

Ivanović's boss, Minister for Kosovo Goran Bogdanović, stated that the number of Serbs who voted in the illegitimate local elections in Kosovo, called by the interim institutions, is small, whereas a great majority of Serbs complied to the Serbian government's decision that there are no conditions for them to take part in the elections.

"Regardless of the terrible pressure and manipulations, the number of Serb voters is small, which is yet another confirmation that Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija believe in the government's policy," Bogdanović said on Sunday.

According to him, after they had become aware of this fact, the elections organizers resorted to manipulations and illegal activities in order to increase the possible election turnout of Serb voters, a statement from the Ministry for Kosovo reads.