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Wednesday, 14 November, 2001, 12:11 GMT
Kosovo gears up for elections
Ethnic Albanians at the election rally
Many ethnic Albanians demand independence for Kosovo
By Paul Anderson in Pristina

Final campaigning is taking place in Kosovo for the election of the first national assembly since Slobodan Milosevic's forces were driven from the province during Nato's bombing campaign in 1999.

Since then, Kosovo has been governed by the United Nations, although on paper it remains part of the Yugoslav federation.

Election rally
Albanians will dominate in the new parliament

The 120 seat assembly is designed to represent the ethnic make-up of Kosovo, with a quota of secured seats going to the remaining Serbs and other minorities.

Parliament will appoint a Prime Minister, who will then form a government.

The UN will retain the final say in most important legislative business, and the new body will not be allowed to declare independence.

Nonetheless, the Serbs fear it is the first step in the creation of a new state.


In the summer of 1999, the terror which Slobodan Milosevic visited on Kosovo's Albanians returned to haunt the province's Serbs.

It was a season of mass kidnappings and murders, of forced expulsions and the torching of houses.

Since then, the frequency of the attacks has slowed, but the Serbs say the terror remains.

A Serbian girl holding a picture of her missing father
About 1,300 Kosovo Serbs are still missing

Nine months ago, 11 Serbs travelling to one of their enclaves near Pristina were killed when a bomb exploded under their bus.

Last week, an orthodox church went the way of more than 100 before it when it was bombed.

Kosovo is seen by many Serbs as their national and Christian homeland, and they say the Albanians are continuing to drive them out, despite the efforts of the international community and about 40,000 peace-keeping troops to build a multi-ethnic society.

Boycott plan

The UN hopes the election of a national assembly and the formation of a government in which the Serbs will be proportionally represented will develop the process.

It has worked hard to get the new leadership in Belgrade to back the vote.

To the fury of Albanian politicians who were not consulted, the UN's Kosovo head of mission, Hans Haekkerup, has promised more security for Serbs and more help in tracking down the 1,300 still missing, presumed kidnapped or killed.

The new assembly, which will be dominated by Albanians by at least four to one, can not take a vote on independence. But that has not reassured the many Serbs planning to boycott the process.

They fear the assembly is the first step in the creation of greater Albania, and they want local autonomous government to guarantee their human and civic rights.

See also:

17 Jun 01 | Europe
UN takes peace mission to Kosovo
30 Jun 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Change moves slowly in the Balkans
13 Aug 01 | Europe
Serb refugees return to Kosovo
04 Feb 00 | Europe
Analysis: Protecting the Serbs
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