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U.N. mission chief calls on Kosovo citizens to vote in elections
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12:08, November 17, 2007

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The chief of the U.N. Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) called on local citizens on Friday to vote at Saturday's provincial parliamentary elections despite boycott announced by the Serbian government.

"I call on all citizens of Kosovo to take part in the elections, since it is important that you and your leaders obtain legitimacy from the people of Kosovo," said Joachim Rucker, the UNMIK chief.

Rucker told a press conference in the Kosovo capital of Pristina that preparations have been carried out and conditions have been created for peaceful and successful elections.

The parliamentary elections on Saturday will be the third in the Serbian province since the deployment of NATO-led KFOR international peacekeepers in 1999 and the first to be held on the basis of proportional representation.

Independence for Kosovo was the dominant theme in the election campaign and the only issue on which all political leaders agreed unanimously, pushing the local economy, the problem of massive unemployment and social welfare into second place.

Some 1.5 million voters will be choosing 100 members of the Kosovo parliament as well as councilors and heads of 30 municipalities.

In addition to the 100 seats in the parliament, 10 more seats are reserved for representatives of the Serb community and another10 for other minority groups.

A total of 25 parties are running in the elections, including nine Albanian parties and two independent candidates.

Serb leaders have called for a boycott, claiming there are no instruments in place to protect them against being outvoted by ethnic Albanians.

Although eight Serb representatives from some fringe groups are named on ballots, most Serbian would-be candidates are boycotting the election at the behest of the Serbian government.

Belgrade remains staunchly opposed to Kosovo's independence, saying that it is prepared to offer ethnic Albanians broad local autonomy within Serbia's borders.

A new negotiating troika, comprising U.S., EU and Russian diplomats, is due to submit a report on the current negotiations by Dec. 10. This followed Russia's obstruction in the U.N. Security Council of a plan by U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari proposing internationally supervised independence for Kosovo.

KFOR Commander Lieutenant General Xavier Bout de Marnhac said that the international peace forces would strive to ensure security for all citizens of Kosovo and that the election process is conducted peacefully.

Analysts said the elections are likely to end decades of domination by the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo of late president Ibrahim Rugova, which is, according to surveys, trailing the Democratic Party of Kosovo led by Hashim Thaci, a 39-year old former guerrilla commander during the war.

The elections watchdog Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has said that the preliminary results of the vote will be announced two or three days after the polls and the final results by the end of the month.

Source: Xinhua

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