Kosovo's statehood faces first test at local polls.Facing a key democratic test, Kosovo's leaders have urged citizens to vote peacefully after violent incidents marred the last week of campaigning, including the stoning of the prime minister's car and an attack on a mayoral candidate.
Few expect the winners of the local elections to change the 40 percent unemployment rate and create jobs for 30,000 young people who enter the job market every year. Many of them continue to leave the country to find work abroad.
"We need water, better roads and elevators in our apartments, which are the municipality's job," said Hasim Canolli, 60, after voting in the capital Pristina. "The independence issue is over, and people need jobs now."
Turnout among Kosovo's small Serb minority was minimal after Serbian leaders in Belgrade warned voters not to "legitimise Kosovo's independence."
"When my president, my government and my (Orthodox) Church in Belgrade told me not to vote, of course I will not vote," said Snezana Markovic in the Serb stronghold of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo.
But some voters from the Serb minority in southern parts of the country were voting for their new municipalities, as foreseen in the Kosovo independence plan drafted by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari.
"Today we are showing that our country and its citizens have deserved independence, democracy and the European Union perspective," said Kosovo's prime minister, Hashim Thaci.
The dominant groupings are Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo The Democratic Party of Kosovo (Albanian: Partia Demokratike e Kosovës - short PDK; Serbian: Демократска Странка (PDK) and President Fatmir Sejdiu's Democratic League of Kosovo The Democratic League of Kosovo (Lidhja Demokratike e Kosovës, LDK) is the largest political party in Kosovo, a Serbian province currently under UN administration.
At the last legislative elections held on October 24, 2004, the party won 45. (LDK), which are coalition partners in the government.
Around 1.5 million people are eligible to elect mayors and local councils in 36 municipalities. Clear winners will emerge only after second-round mayoral run-offs in a month's time.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after NATO NATO: see North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
in full North Atlantic Treaty Organization
International military alliance created to defend western Europe against a possible Soviet invasion. bombing drove out Serb forces to stop the killing of ethnic Albanians in a two-year counter-insurgency war.
More than 60 countries, mainly western, have recognized Kosovo's independence, but not Serbia, its former ruler, or Russia.
After the war ended in 1999, elections in Kosovo Parliamentary elections to the Assembly of Kosovo (Albanian: Kuvendi i Kosovës, Serbian: were run by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE OSCE Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe
OSCE Organisation Pour la Sécurité et la Coopération en Europe (French: Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe)
OSCE Objective Structured Clinical Examination ). These are the first polls to be organized by local authorities.
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