19 April 2007

Kosovo Serbs hope election will bring "better life"



As Serbia voted in Sunday's parliamentary elections, the polls were open in Kosovo too.


By Blerta Foniqi-Kabashi for Southeast European Times in Pristina - 24/01/07


Around 267 voting places in 22 Kosovo municipalities opened on Sunday (January 21st), making it possible for Kosovo Serbs to participate in the Serbian parliamentary elections. The voters say they hope the elections will help improve their quality of life.


"I am waiting for something better . we need a change in the Serbian government," said Slobodan Ivanovic of Gracanica.


His neighbour, Mira Dragoljub, said she backs the Socialists. "They know our problems in Kosovo and I believe in them," she said.


Nebojsa Jovic, vice president of the Serb National Council in Kosovo, told Serbian media that he expects the new Serbian government to have stronger political aims. "We should not leave Kosovo," he said.


Another Kosovo Serb leader, Oliver Ivanovic, said he hoped the vote would usher in "a democratic government, which will be reflected in Kosovo too".


Serbs in the municipality of Sterpce also expressed hope that the vote would result in a better quality of life.


"We are waiting for the best things.we vote for them and they should think of us," said Dragan Lajic. His wife emphasised the need for jobs. "We have many unemployed persons," she said.


Natasa Milosavljevic, from Lypjan, said she doubts the outcome will lead to improved conditions, but wanted to vote while Kosovo is still under Serbia's authority. "This process is very difficult. We voted again in Serbia's elections, because we think that Kosovo is still part of Serbia," she said.


She added, however, that her family would vote in future Kosovo elections if the province becomes independent. "Why not? We will accept the new reality in Kosovo," she said.


Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku said Sunday's election gave Serbian citizens a chance to break with the past.


"I believe that Serbian citizens have the ideal opportunity to choose between the past and the future and to vote for those democratic forces that ... look towards the future and not the past, to give Serbian citizens a European perspective," Ceku told the AP.


According to the Centre for Free Elections and Democracy (CeSID), voter turnout in Kosovo stood at 48.6%.


Incumbent Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DPS) won the largest number of votes in the province, CeSID said. The DPS garnered 19,099 votes, followed by the ultranationalist Radicals with 13,348 votes. President Boris Tadic's Democratic Party was third, with 5,489 votes. In the past, Kosovo had been considered a bastion of Radical support.


With the elections over, UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari is now expected to come forward with his proposal for Kosovo's future. It was delayed because of the vote.