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Last Updated: Monday, 25 October 2004, 18:31 GMT 19:31 UK
Rugova triumphs in Kosovo polls
Woman voting in Kosovo
Many Kosovo Albanians exercised their right to vote
The first official results from Kosovo's general election confirm that President Ibrahim Rugova's party has won the most seats in the assembly.

His pro-independence party won about 45% of Saturday's votes - not enough for a parliamentary majority.

Kosovo's minority Serbs boycotted the elections en masse, highlighting the deep divisions still plaguing the troubled territory.

Both Nato and the UN administrator in Kosovo lamented the tiny Serb turnout.

Election organisers say the final results in the election to the 120-seat assembly will vary only slightly, the BBC's Nick Hawton reports from the capital, Pristina.

Mr Rugova's party, the Democratic League of Kosovo, will need the support of smaller parties to form a government.

I don't think that we should change the aims we have had in the past, prior to the election
Javier Solana
EU foreign policy chief

Second was the Democratic Party led by a former guerrilla leader, Hashim Thaci, with 28%.

Most of Kosovo's vast majority of ethnic Albanians wants independence for the province, which technically remains part of Serbia and Montenegro.

But ethnic Serbs would like the Belgrade government to take back control of the province.

Serb boycott

Fewer than 1% of eligible Serbs cast a vote, in the second poll since the UN took over Kosovo in 1999. It was widely seen as a Belgrade-inspired protest.

"I deeply regret the very low participation of Kosovar Serbs in the electoral process," said Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

However, he welcomed the fact that the vote "took place without significant acts of violence".

UN mission chief Soren Jessen-Petersen said some Serbs had had "their democratic right to vote hijacked" because of intimidation.

But EU and Nato officials said the Serb boycott should not delay a review of the province's progress before deciding its final status.

"I don't think that we should change the aims we have had in the past prior to the election," said EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Lower turnout

Total turnout in the poll was put at about 51%, compared with 64% in 2001.

Official in an empty voting station
Election officials in Serb areas had a very easy day
Overall voting is reported to have passed off peacefully, with only a few minor voting irregularities.

Many Serbs were reported to have attended church services instead of going to vote.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and church leaders called on Serbs to boycott the ballot because of security fears.

Tens of thousands of Kosovan Serbs who have fled the province since the war in 1998-99 were allowed to vote, as were those still in Kosovo.

Some said they were intimidated by their own people.

Asked by a Reuters reporter if he planned to vote, a Serb in the divided city of Mitrovica replied: "Are you joking? They'd knee-cap me."

Security remains a major concern following riots in March which left 19 people dead and saw Serb houses and churches burned to the ground.

That violence highlighted the continuing tensions between the two communities and a deep frustration at the lack of any long-term political solution for the province.




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Why Ibrahim Rugova is confident of victory



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