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Monday, 19 November, 2001, 20:41 GMT
New dawn for Kosovo
Election rally
Many ethnic Albanians want full independence
By BBC south-east Europe analyst Gabriel Partos

The party of the long-standing Kosovan Albanian leader, Ibrahim Rugova, has won Kosovo's first parliamentary elections since the entity's autonomy was abolished under the former Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic, 12 years ago.


Serbs have taken part in the poll, in spite of their misgivings about their continuing precarious security in an Albanian-dominated Kosovo

But the success of the Democratic League of Kosovo - or LDK - was marred by the fact that it failed to secure an overall majority, getting 46% of the vote.

Mr Rugova and the LDK have dominated Kosovan Albanian politics for much of the time since the establishment of the LDK 12 years ago.

The only exception to that was the period around the conflict in Kosovo in 1999 when Mr Rugova's pacifist policies were, for a time, eclipsed by the strategy of using force.

Election poster in Kosovo
Kosovo's assembly cannot declare independence

That option was espoused by the ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) whose armed struggle precipitated Belgrade's crackdown.

That, in turn, brought about Nato's military intervention and the withdrawal of Serb security forces from Kosovo.

But by last year the LDK had re-established its predominance when it gained a majority of the votes in the municipal elections of October 2000.

Kosovo institution

This time, the LDK has once again triumphed in the elections for Kosovo's 120-seat assembly.

It is being trusted most widely among Kosovo's Albanian majority because of its decade-long experience in running Kosovo's shadow institutions during the period of Belgrade's direct rule.

Convoy of tractors carrying refugees
More than 200,000 Serbs have fled Kosovo

Besides, there are still lingering concerns in Kosovo over the LDK's main rival, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), which has suffered from its status as the political successor to the KLA.

There is a widespread belief among Kosovans that former KLA guerrillas have been involved in post-conflict violence and organised crime.

Although political violence in the run-up to Saturday's elections was minimal, public perception of the KLA has yet to shift sufficiently to increase the PDK's popularity.

Serb participation

The biggest change since last year's municipal elections has not involved the ethnic Albanian vote - accounting for nearly 90% of the electorate - but the Serb minority.

Ibrahim Rugova
Rugova: Likely to be president

A year ago Kosovan Serbs boycotted the elections.

This time, encouraged by the post-Milosevic leadership in Belgrade, many of them have taken part in the poll, in spite of their misgivings about their continuing precarious security in an Albanian-dominated Kosovo.

The Serbs' participation in the elections has been important for two reasons.

It gives the Serb community a stronger voice in Kosovo's emerging institutions of self-government. And it lends greater credibility to the entire democratic process.

Independence question

One thing the Serb minority do not want to see is any advance along the road to independence - a path Kosovo's Albanian majority are eager to follow.

One of Mr Rugova's first remarks after the elections was to say that he would insist on Kosovo's independence being recognised as soon as possible.

But for the time being, that is not an option the international community wants to consider.

The elections have been held under UN Resolution 1244 which acknowledges Kosovo as being part of Yugoslavia.

Coalition government

So in terms of practical politics, attention is going to focus - in the short term, at least - on what kind of government emerges from the elections.

The LDK will need some coalition partners - in addition to the two ministerial posts that are reserved for Serbs and other minorities.

It could go for a grand coalition that includes the PDK.

Or it might opt for a less broad-based government, choosing as its junior partner the third force in ethnic Albanian politics, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, although that may still not give it a clear majority.

Other options - involving the minority communities - are also possible, the more so since the electoral system and results are weighted in favour of non-Albanians.

In any case, there is likely to be plenty of political manoeuvring during the forthcoming attempts to form a government.

Parliament is also due to pick a president - a post for which Mr Rugova remains the strong favourite.

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See also:

15 Nov 01 | Europe
Kosovo prepares to vote
14 Nov 01 | Europe
Kosovo gears up for elections
17 Jun 01 | Europe
UN takes peace mission to Kosovo
04 Feb 00 | Europe
Analysis: Protecting the Serbs
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