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Thursday, 21 September, 2000, 04:35 GMT 05:35 UK
The Kosovo factor
Supporters of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) wave posters at a Belgrade rally
Ironically. an opposition win might suit Kosovo best
By Nick Wood in Pristina

For the past two months the UN administration that is responsible for running Kosovo has being doing its utmost to ignore the Yugoslav presidential and parliamentary elections.


If Milosevic stays in power we will remain the hostages of his policy

Baton Haxhiu, Pristina newspaper editor
The head of the UN mission, Bernard Kouchner, has said what he describes as the "so called FRY elections" will neither be banned or helped.

Unmik, the acronym for the UN Mission in Kosovo, banned municipal buildings from being used for voting, and said it would not provide any extra security measures for those organising the ballot.

It would seem that the UN was hoping that the elections would simply go away.

However, Sunday's ballot is likely to have a significant impact on Serbia and Kosovo.

Polls fixed

Opposition politicians predicted that the polls in Kosovo would be fraudulent, and would be used by Slobodan Milosevic's administration to retain power.

The UN administrator in Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner
Kouchner seems to hope the elections will just 'go away'
The ability to tamper with the voting lists and ballot papers will be compounded, they say, by the UN's refusal to help organise the poll.

Officials from Mr Milosevic's Serbian Socialist Party organised the vote.

SPS officials even used their own homes as polling stations.

The electoral register itself is likely to be out of date after the huge movements of refugees in the province over the last year.

Furthermore, whilst Kosovo Albanians have boycotted all Yugoslav election for the last 10 years, Serbian opposition leaders fear Mr Milosevic will try to claim their support.

An article in the Serbian daily Blic, pointed out after the last Yugoslav elections in 1996, that several Kosovo Albanian villages known for their support for the Kosovo Liberation Army, had apparently come out in full support of the SPS.

Shaping Kosovo's future

Kosovo Albanian interest in the elections seems at the very most to be muted.

Newspapers hardly mentions the election campaign, and politicians such as Naim Maloku, the head of the Central Liberal Party of Kosovo (PQLK), say that Kosovo's future is unlikely to be changed what ever the outcome of Sunday's vote.

President Milosevic about to address a party rally
Milosevic may try to use Kosovo to retain power
Many senior UN officials and Western diplomats say exactly the opposite: that the holding of Yugoslav elections in Serb enclaves, followed by municipal elections in Albanian areas, will help to define Kosovo's ethnic divide.

By the time Albanians vote for local representatives at the end of October, the province's two main communities will have shown they want to be run by two separate political entities.

The idea of a multi-ethnic Kosovo with one political system becomes more remote.

'Vote Milosevic'

The outcome of the poll could also determine the prospects of independence for the province.

The European Union has already shown that if Vojslav Kostunica, the main opposition candidate for the presidency, were to take power, now or in the future, EU sanctions on Serbia would fall.

Senior US officials in Washington also say international backing for independence for Kosovo would disappear overnight.

Aid agencies in the province have also expressed their concern for a loss of funds, as attention is turned to Belgrade.

'Hostages'

This leads to the Machiavellian conclusion that it might be better for those seeking Kosovo's independence if Slobodan Milosevic stayed in power, at least in the short term.

However most Kosovo Albanians find it difficult to come to that conclusion.

Baton Haxhiu, editor of the respected Pristina-based daily, Koha Ditore, says that it would be better to be living alongside a democratic Serbia.

"If Milosevic stays in power we will remain the hostages of his policy," he said.

He will again create tensions inside Kosovo.

"Why do we need Milosevic in power?

"I don't know who said this, but I think they have got the wrong idea."

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