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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 October, 2004, 21:44 GMT 22:44 UK
Q&A: Kosovo's election
Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova
Ibrahim Rugova - led passive resistance in 1990s

The Serbian province of Kosovo goes to the polls on Saturday to choose its second parliament since becoming a UN protectorate in 1999. There are worries the vote will be clouded by continuing tension between ethnic Albanians and the Serb minority. BBC Monitoring looks at the background.

Q: What is at stake?

The UN wants to create a system of power-sharing between the territory's main ethnic groups. Elected institutions, especially the Kosovo Assembly, are a key part of the plan.

However, the vote is overshadowed by the issue of the province's final status, with talks thought likely to start next year.

Ethnic Albanians, who make up over 90% of the population, overwhelmingly want independence, but this is strongly opposed by Serbia and the ethnic Serb minority.

In March, 19 people were killed in the worst clashes between the two communities since Serb forces were driven out of Kosovo in 1999.

The province is also experiencing economic hardship, with unemployment put as high as 44%, according to a UN Development Programme report.

Q: What is the system?

Kosovans will elect a 120-member assembly for a four-year term.

One hundred seats are distributed among all parties contesting the election, in proportion to their share of the popular vote.

Ten seats are reserved for parties representing the Serb community.

Another 10 seats are set aside for smaller ethnic groups. The Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities are guaranteed four seats, Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) three, the Turkish community two and the Gorani (Muslim Serbs) community one.

The OSCE expects about 1.4 million Kosovans to cast their votes.

Q: What are the assembly's powers?

The assembly passes laws on internal affairs including economic and financial policy, education, trade and health.

Foreign policy, customs and monetary policy remain the responsibility of the UN secretary-general's special representative in Kosovo, Soren Jessen-Petersen.

MPs also elect the president, whose powers are limited to proposing the prime minister and representing Kosovo abroad.

FACTS AND FIGURES
Assembly has 120 seats
20 seats reserved for minorities
Ethnic Albanians make up over 90% of population
Just 10% of Serbs expected to vote
Unemployment put at 44%

Q: What are the main parties?

The strongest party in the last 100-member assembly, elected in 2001, was the Democratic League of Kosovo, winning 47 seats.

Led by the current Kosovo president, veteran Albanian separatist leader Ibrahim Rugova, the party is campaigning under the slogan "independence for Kosovo" and describes itself as centre-right.

In second place with 26 seats was the centre-left Democratic Party of Kosovo, which grew out of the main armed separatist group, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

Headed by former KLA political leader Hashim Thaci, it includes the current prime minister, Bajram Rexhepi, who has warned of rising tensions if independence is not achieved.

The third largest Albanian party, gaining eight seats at the last elections, is the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, led by a former regional KLA commander, Ramush Haradinaj.

It has promised to form a foreign ministry and transfer security from UN police to a Kosovan police force - moves seen as preparing the ground for independence.

The main Serb group at the last elections was the Return Coalition, with 22 seats.

Q: Who is favourite?

An opinion poll on 17 September had Mr Rugova's Democratic League in the lead, with 37%.

Next was the Democratic Party with 22% and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo with 6%.

Q: What of the Serbs?

Most Serbs seem likely to boycott the poll, which many fear could accelerate the trend towards independence.

In the week before polling, Serbs staged several protest rallies. Only some smaller Serb parties, such as the Civic Initiative of Serbia, are participating.

The two largest parties, the Return Coalition and the Serbia Movement-Serbian Resistance Movement, have declared they are staying away, after receiving mixed signals from Belgrade.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and the influential Orthodox Church urged Serbs to boycott the election in the wake of the March violence, while President Milan Tadic encouraged them to vote.

The Serbian government has sought guarantees on self-government for Serbs within Kosovo, and on the return of Serbs who fled the province, before it endorses the vote.

Some observers think fewer than 10% of Kosovo's Serbs may vote - a turnout which observers say could undermine the legitimacy of any Serb MPs who are elected.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.






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Compiled by BBC Monitoring

SEE ALSO:
UN and Nato slammed over Kosovo
26 Jul 04  |  Europe
Regions and territories: Kosovo
19 Oct 04  |  Country profiles
Country profile: Serbia and Montenegro
08 Mar 04  |  Country profiles
Timeline: After Milosevic
03 Mar 04  |  Country profiles



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