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The elections come two years ahead of schedule owing to the resignation of Haradinaj, a former guerrilla commander, after he was summoned to testify as a suspect in alleged war crimes in Kosovo between 1998-2000.
Kosovo opposition parties Self-determination (Vetevendosje) and the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) triumphed in Sunday’s legislative elections in the small East European country, according to figures from the Central Electoral Commission with more than 80 percent of the ballots counted.
The Democratic Party of Kosovo, the largest political force in the outgoing government, came in in third place in the voting and its leader, Kadri Veseli, on Sunday night acknowledged his defeat and announced that the opposition had won.
“The citizens have expressed their decision and we accept it. The PDK moves into the opposition, but we will continue serving the people and the state,” Veseli told reporters in the capital of Pristina, according to Kosovo’s RTK media outlet.
With 83.67 percent of the ballots tabulated, Self-determination, the nationalist party headed by Albin Kurti, is in first place in with 25.99 percent of the votes. The conservative LDK, which put up Judge Vjosa Osmami as its prime ministerial candidate, is holding 24.92 percent of the votes, almost four percentage points more than the 21.09 percent garnered by the center-right PDK.
The Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), another nationalist party of former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj’s supporters and the Social-Democratic Party of Kosovo (PSD), a splinter group off of Self-determination, is in fourth place with 11.57 percent of the vote.
Voter participation on Sunday’s election was 44 percent, according to the Central Electoral Commission.
The LDK and Self-determination, which have collaborated over the past two years, said during the campaign that they are willing to form a governing coalition after the election.
The attempt to forge an alliance prior to Sunday’s vote had failed because the two groups could not agree on a common candidate for prime minister.
Election forecasts and exit polling indicated that the two parties will garner an absolute majority of the seats in Parliament and the country, which declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, could see a woman – Osmani – lead the country for the first time ever.
There are 120 seats in Kosovo’s Parliament, 20 of which are reserved for the country’s minorities and half for ethnic Serbs.
Both the LDK and Self-determination has said that they will not form alliances with the PDK, the party founded by current President Hashim Thaci, a guerrilla leader, has been in power since Kosovo became independent.
The new government will need to improve relations with Serbia, if possible. The complicated process of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, sponsored by the European Union, has been on hold since last November after Haradinaj’s decision to levy a 100 percent tariff on products imported from Serbia.
The measure, which violates regional agreements, has not been rescinded despite requests to do so from the EU and the United States.
Haradinaj has said that he would not rescind the measure “until Serbia recognizes Kosovo’s independence.”
In addition to Serbia, countries such as Spain, Russia and China have not recognized Kosovo’s sovereignty, although the US and most of the EU members, among others, have done so.