Page last updated at 17:45 GMT, Friday, 13 November 2009

Q&A: Kosovo local elections

Kosovans celebrate their country's independence in 2008
These will be the first elections in Kosovo since independence in 2008

Kosovo's citizens go to the polls on 15 November to elect mayors and deputies to local assemblies.

These will be the first elections since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, and the fifth local elections since the end of the 1998-99 conflict.

Kosovo's coalition government has been strained by a hostile mayoralty contest in the capital city Pristina.

What is at stake?

The elections are seen as a major test for Europe's newest country which seeks to prove to the international community that it can organize free, fair and democratic elections. If it succeeds, the elections will have a positive impact on the stalled independence recognition process and its future integration into the EU and Nato.

Who will vote in the election?

There are 1,563,741 eligible voters in Kosovo, the majority of whom are ethnic Albanians. Turnout in the 2007 election was just over 40%, and experts predict another low turnout amid widespread disillusionment over the political process and allegations of corruption.

Will ethnic Serbs go to the polls?

Of the estimated 120,000 ethnic Serbs living in Kosovo, only around 1,000 chose to vote in the 2007 election after Serbia called for a boycott. For the 2009 local elections, the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serbian leadership have again issued appeals against participation.

Which are the main parties contesting the election?

The largest parties in the elections represent the ethnic Albanian majority. The Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) grew out of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and is headed by former KLA political leader and Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. It won the 2007 general and municipal elections. Its partner in a grand coalition in government, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), is headed by President Fatmir Sejdiu. Opposition parties include the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), the New Kosovo Alliance (AKR) and the Democratic League of Dardania (LDD).

Who are the main contenders for mayor of Pristina?

The frontrunners for the post of mayor in Pristina are Isa Mustafa - the LDK's candidate and incumbent mayor - and PDK representative Astrit Salihu - a philosophy professor, journalist and Prime Minister Thaci's political adviser. A recent poll put Mr ustafa in the lead with 37%, ahead of Salihu with 21.7%. The hard-fought and occasionally hostile campaign has damaged ties between the candidates' parties.

Have there been any campaign violations?

On the whole, the campaign has been observed to progress without any major violations of the electoral regulations. However, there have been some disturbances on the campaign trail. On 12 November a group of protesters threw eggs and stones at a motorcade carrying Hashim Thaci, who was campaigning for the DPK. The following day, shots were fired at the AAK candidate for mayor of Mitrovica.

BBC Monitoringselects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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