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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Kosovo's Serbs vote again after poll violence


Kosovo's Serbs vote again after poll violence

People wave Serbian flags during a rally in Mitrovica. Photo: 15 November 2013Most ethnic Serbs refuse to recognise Kosovo's independence
Voters in Kosovo's ethnic Serb northern part of Mitrovica are casting their ballots again, after elections two weeks ago ended in chaos.
Masked men set off tear gas and smashed ballot boxes at the main polling centre of the town on 3 November.
Most ethnic Serbs in Mitrovica did not take part in the local elections - unlike ethnic Albanians in the south.
Almost all ethnic Serbs refuse to recognise Kosovo's independence and also reject Belgrade's calls to vote.
Two weeks ago, the government in Belgrade for the first time put pressure on Kosovo's Serbs to cast their ballots.
The change was down to a new agreement between Serbia and Kosovo to normalise relations, as Belgrade seeks membership of the European Union.
'Blackmail'
The vote centres on three polling stations in northern Mitrovica.
Guy De Launey reports from Mitrovica on the election violence
Nato-led peacekeepers and EU police promised "robust security measures" to ensure a peaceful vote.
But most people in northern Mitrovica do not really want to vote, the BBC's Guy De Launey in the town reports.
They complain they have been told their Serbian public sectors jobs will be at risk if they do not go to the polls, our correspondent says.
"Those which are receiving the social aid have been called all day by phone and have been ordered - blackmailed - to come and vote," mayoral candidate Olive Ivanovic said.
"That's a terrible thing - and I never heard such a thing," he added.
However, some voters said they would take part.
"I think we should come out and vote, and we should listen to our country which is calling us to do so, because disunity doesn't lead anywhere," Milorad Djordjevic said.
Many ethnic Serbs are concerned that if they vote it would legitimise the independent state of Kosovo. Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
The move had the support of Kosovo's majority Albanian population.
Calls for independence from ethnic Albanians in Kosovo after the break-up of the former Yugoslavia led Serbia to stage a violent crackdown in the territory, which was brought to an end by a Nato military intervention in 1999.
Until 2008, Kosovo was administered by the United Nations.