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Elections in Kosovo amid pressure to resume dialogue with Serbia

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Kosovo residents are heading to the polls on Sunday to renew their leaders amid intense international pressure to settle the conflict with Serbia, one of Europe’s biggest confusion.

Two decades after the end of the last war in the break-up of Yugoslavia, Belgrade continues to refuse to recognize the independence unilaterally declared by its former Albanian province.

Serbia and its allies, led by Russia and China, are preventing Kosovo from taking a seat at the United Nations.

The deteriorating relations between Belgrade and Pristina, which regularly witness escalations, are a major obstacle to Serbia’s proximity to the EU, which is negotiating to join.

But none of this is a priority for most of Kosovo’s 1.8 million inhabitants, said Salih Mehanna, a 39-year-old merchant. “I am fed up with this dialogue,” he said, summarizing the view of a people exhausted by poverty, corruption, nepotism, infrastructure and services. Public catastrophic.

This resentment could prompt voters to exclude the “war parties” led by former separatist leaders who have ruled Kosovo since the declaration of independence.

– road map –

In the 2018 elections, former warlords overlooked their differences to retain power, albeit a narrow margin. This time, however, the Kosovo Democratic Party of President Hashim Taji and the outgoing Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj’s Alliance for the Future of Kosovo are running.

No credible poll has been released, but analysts are likely to win a coalition between the Democratic League of Kosovo (center-right) and the Vetivendusi (leftist nationalist), ousting former warlords from power.

The leaders of the two parties, Vyosa Osmani, who hopes to become Kosovo’s first female prime minister, and Albin Kurti, a former student leader jailed by the Serbs, have made their main point of hostility to these “leaders”, enough to persuade them to unite.

Whatever the next leadership team and the priorities of the people of Kosovo, political science professor Necmettin Sabahi said that “the issue of dialogue will be crucial in the formation of the next government” because “the international community will not give its consent to a government that does not make it a priority.”

Before the elections, the Americans and Europeans drew their roadmap in a joint statement that “urgently resume talks with Serbia with a view to reaching a full political agreement that is legally binding and contributes to the stability of the region.”

Westerners have condemned Haradinaj’s decision to impose 100 percent tariffs on goods imported from Serbia, and Belgrade requires the cancellation of these duties to resume negotiations stalled for nearly two years.

– Customs controversial –

With the exception of Haradinaj, who is hoping to reap the fruits of his tough line, the main candidates appear ready to abandon the customs barrier, which was criticized by KDP leader Kadiri Vesely as “emotional improvisation”.

Vesely’s position in this regard would be similar to that of the United States, which has just appointed a special envoy, Richard Garrell.

In the confrontation camp, both Osmani and Alban Kurti confirm their determination to resume dialogue, and Kurti is erasing his image as a hard-line politician.

“The fate of the customs duties is settled,” said analyst Najmuddin Sabaho, stressing that “suspension will be one of the first decisions of the new government.”

One of the most sensitive issues the new administration will face is the administrative and institutional organization of Kosovo’s 40,000 Serb-inhabited areas in the north and 80,000 in about 10 enclaves, who will elect 10 deputies.

Pristina was first forced to produce documents from Kosovo, which could create tension.

Serbian officials were also banned from entering Kosovo during the campaign period.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called for a vote for the “Republika Srpska”, the largest political force among Kosovo Serbs from his party, while opponents of the Republika Srpska condemn an ​​atmosphere of intimidation.

The 1.9 million voters (with the diaspora) can cast their ballots from 5:00 am to 17:00 GMT.

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