PRISTINA – The Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) of Prime Minister Hashim Thaci claimed victory in Sunday's snap legislative elections, with electoral officials saying preliminary results showed the PDK in the lead.
Based on 15 per cent of votes counted, the electoral commission said the PDK was leading with 31 per cent ahead of the main opposition Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) on 25 per cent.
"Let me confirm that the PDK is a persuasive winner of these elections. According to our count, the PDK emerges as the first party, gaining a convincing and solid majority," a top PDK official Kadri Veseli told reporters.
An exit poll of a non-governmental organisation also said the PDK was in the lead with 33 per cent, trailed by LDK on 30 per cent, with a margin of error of two percentage points.
Thaci, an ex-guerilla chief who has dominated politics since the country declared independence in 2008, is seeking a third mandate, but it is yet to be seen if he will be able to form a government as it is unlikely that he will have enough MPs in the 120-seat parliament to rule alone.
The three largest opposition parties during the campaign had said they would not form a coalition with the PDK, following public discontent in Europe's poorest country over high unemployment and rampant corruption.
The election passed off peacefully with Serbs in Kosovo's restive northern region taking part for the first time in a general election, which could be a possible boost for the country's EU hopes.
The Serbs' participation follows a historic EU-brokered accord between Kosovo and Serbia last year in which Belgrade agreed to recognise Pristina's authority over the entire territory.
Although Serbia still rejects Kosovo's full independence, it had encouraged Kosovo Serbs to take part in the vote in order to strengthen its own EU entry talks.
Many of Kosovo's Serbs, who number around 120,000 in the majority ethnic Albanian country of 1.8 million, have reacted angrily to the agreement and appeared to be reluctant to take part in the polls, but there was no violence as during local elections last November. — AFP