A man casts his ballot at the polling station in Pristina on June 11, 2017 during early parliamentary elections in Kosovo. (AFP photo)
People in Kosovo are voting in snap elections to decide members of their 120-seat parliament as key issues like a border demarcation deal and talks with Serbia are at stake.
Voting started at 7 am (0500 GMT) Sunday as officials said that some 1.9 million Kosovars were eligible to vote.
Candidates nominated for the votes come from 19 different parties, five coalitions and two citizens’ initiatives. Nearly all candidates have promised economic reform and negotiations aimed at easing travel to the European Union. Kosovo is the only country in the western Balkan that is not included in the European Union’s free movement Schengen zone.
The vote comes amid thorny issues for Kosovo like how the country would go on with a border demarcation deal signed with Montenegro in 2015. A visa-free entry for Kosovars into the Schengen would depend on the approval of the deal by the next parliament. Also on the agenda are talks with Serbia, a country that has yet to recognize Kosovo as a state, on more rights for ethnic Serbs. Kosovo is a Muslim-dominated country which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
Prime Minister Isa Mustafa called the snap elections in May after his government lost a no-confidence vote over accusations from the opposition that he had failed to deliver on his pledges for improvement in Kosovo’s economic situation.
A Kosovar man prepares to cast his vote at a polling station in Pristina during early parliamentary elections on June 11, 2017. (AFP photo)
Preliminary results would be announced around an hour after the voting ends at 7 pm while officials in the state election commission said turnout was around 8.5 percent by 11 am.
The state commission called for higher turnout, saying it would “show to the world we are part of democracy and know how to hold elections properly.”
President Hashim Thaci also urged people to set aside differences and vote to ensure the stability of their nation.
“I invite all citizens, regardless of their political or ethnic affiliation, to take part in the election and vote for their future,” he said.