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Nov 16, 2007 14:05 EEST
November 16 (SeeNews) - Former Kosovo guerrilla commander Hashim Thaci will emerge as prime minister after Saturday elections in the U.N.-run southern Serbian province and will head an administration which is expected to unilaterally declare independence next month, despite Serbian outrage, and appeal for Western backing, analysts said.
They expect Thaci to set aside long-term political rivalry and form a coalition with President Fatmir Sejdiu.
“The only possible coalition that might be formed after the November 17 elections is the coalition between the currently ruling party of President Fatmir Sejdiu and the main opposition party of Hashim Thaci, who without doubt will be the next Kosovo Prime Minister,” Krenar Gashi, journalist and editor in the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) Kosovo, told SeeNews.
The Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), led by Thaci is in opposition since the last elections in October 2004. Thaci was political leader of the militant Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), formed in 1995 to fight for independence for Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority. The current ruling party, of late President Ibrahim Rugova, is the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), which now is headed by the President Sejdiu.
“The only party that made a nomination for the Prime Minister's post, out of the six that play some role in the political life in Kosovo, is PDK […] On the other hand no party will pass over 30% of the votes, so a coalition will be set-up and the only reasonable one is between the ruling party and the opposition,” Avni Zogiani, head of the Pristina based anti-corruption organisation Cohu said.
On Saturday, the ethnically divided Serbian province is to hold its third general and fifth local elections since coming under U.N.-rule in 1999. Kosovo is to elect 120 members for its parliament: 100 seats are for the ethnic Albanians, 10 seats are reserved for Kosovo's Serb minority and 10 for other minorities.
On December 10 international mediators are due to place their report on Kosovo’s future status to the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo insists on independence and says it will unilaterally declare it if necessary, while Serbia says it will not give more than broad autonomy.
The province has been under U.N. administration since 1999, when NATO bombing forced ex-Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic to halt a crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanians which Western powers said was leading to the repression of civilians.
Kosovo population circa 2.1 million, where ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs and other minorities by nine to one.
Kosovo’s Serb minority has agreed with calls from Belgrade to boycott the vote, as it did in the previous two parliamentary elections. Kosovo’s Central Election Commission (KQZ), has said that Kosovo Serbs will have the opportunity to cast their votes, including those that had been displaced after the 1999 war.
“On the one hand the ruling LDK, after the death of Rugova, split in two and on the other – we have a new player on the political scene in these elections, the businessman Behgjet Pacolli and his newly formed Alliance New Kosovo (AKR), targeting the LDK electorate. […]. These two factors open a wide path to Hashim Thaci and PDK to gain most of the votes. However none of the parties is seen able to make alone a majority in the assembly,” Berat Buzhala, chief-editor and political analysts at Kosovo’s daily newspaper Express said.
A year after the death of Kosovo’s independence icon Rugova, Nexhat Daci, the former speaker of Kosovo’s parliament, who lost out to Sejdiu in the contest to succeed Rugova as President and party’s leader, formed the Democratic League of Dardania (LDD).
“Daci has the rhetoric to lead the public. He is seen by the people as the only politician to succeed Rugova, as the only person to unify Kosovo as Rugova did. But after the formation of LDD he has no big chance and probably will take only a piece of LDK voters,” Buzhala said.
Buzhala added that Albanians believe Thaci, mainly due to his guerrilla fighter past, was the only politician who can guarantee a unilateral declaration of independence, if the Troika, the group of EU, U.S. and Russia envoys and mediators, does not recommend independence in its report.
Ethnic Albanian leaders and especially current Prime Minister Agim Ceku, also an ex-guerrilla commander, who decided not to run in these elections, have repeatedly said the province will unilaterally declare independence after December 10.
“We should not disparage the psychological effect of the two opinion polls conduced, which give the first place to PDK. On the other hand from the start of the election campaign Thaci has acted as the winner. Many undecided voters could support the PDK because they want to vote for the winner,” Gashi said.
Currently Kosovo is ruled by a coalition formed by the LDK and Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK). AAK was also formed by an ex-guerrilla commander, former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, who is on trial on 37 charges including murder and rape at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague. AAK has 11 seats in the 120 seat Kosovo assembly.
“A coalition between AAK and LDK would not be formed. I do not believe that the votes for both parties will be enough to create a majority in the parliament,” Gashi said.
“Coalition between LDD and LDK is absolutely unthinkable, they just split,” he added.
THE NEW PLAYER BEHGJET PACOLLI
Last year Kosovo businessman Behgjet Pacolli registered his AKR. Pacolli is considered to be one of the richest ethnic Albanians. and owns the construction group Mabetex based in Lugano, Switzerland.
“Whoever the winner in the election is, I doubt he will make coalition with AKR. Pacolli will get much of the votes which traditionally go to LDK, but he does not have the necessary reputation with the West. There will be pressure from outside for AKR not to enter the government,” Gashi said.
“Pacolli started his election campaign very strongly and succeeded in attracting the attention of many people, mainly in the rural areas, with his promises to increase social insurance and make improvements in the health system. But a week ago at an election rally Pacolli said something about direct talks between Belgrade and Pristina, without the mediation of the international community. This was his political suicide,” Zogiani said.
Pristina-based privately held polling agency Index Kosova has released the following figures indicating voter support for the main parties that will run in the Saturday vote.
One-hundred-and fifty international observers will monitor the vote. They form part of a 30,000-strong force of domestic and international observers, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said.
On Friday, NATO sent a battalion of 530 to reinforce its 16,000-strong force already stationed in Kosovo to keep the peace during the elections.
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