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Kosovo opposition party declares win

From the Associated Press

A former rebel leader who has promised to declare Kosovo’s independence if mediation efforts fail declared victory for his party in a parliamentary election Saturday.

With most votes counted, opposition leader Hashim Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo led with 35%, according to an unofficial tally by Democracy in Action, a coalition of monitoring groups. The Democratic League of Kosovo, traditionally the province’s largest political bloc, trailed with 22%. Official results were expected Monday.

“Tonight the clock has turned. A new century has begun,” Thaci said. “Kosovo is ready to go forward on the road that will lead us closer to Kosovo independence.”

After casting his ballot, Thaci said that if he became Kosovo’s prime minister he would declare independence from Serbia “immediately” after Dec. 10, the date international envoys must report to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on efforts to resolve the dispute over the province’s future status.

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Ethnic Albanians, who account for 90% of Kosovo’s population of 2 million, insist on independence, but Serbia has said it would never recognize a Kosovar state.

Two years of talks between Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leaders and the Serbian government over the province’s status have resulted in little progress. The latest effort is being mediated by representatives from the U.S., Russia and the European Union.

Serbia has warned that unilateral moves that curb its sovereignty over the province, such as declaring independence, would endanger the region’s stability. Ethnic Albanians have grown skeptical as their leaders have failed to achieve independence from Serbia. The economy is a shambles, jobs are scarce and power outages are plentiful.

If official results confirm the observers’ tally, it will be the first election loss for the Democratic League of Kosovo.

However, Thaci’s party will not have enough support to form a government on its own, and will have to negotiate with other parties to assemble a coalition administration.


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