Voters in Kosovo head to the polls for an early parliamentary election, looking to end months of political instability and elect a government.
The June 11 election, the third vote since Kosovo declared “independence” from Serbia in 2008, was triggered about a year earlier than scheduled after Prime Minister Isa Mustafa’s government lost a no-confidence vote in parliament.
Many of Kosovo’s 1.8 million inhabitants blame politicians from all sides for a stubbornly high unemployment rate that hovers around one-third of workforce despite solid economic expansion of about 4 percent annually in one of the poorest areas in Europe.
Other key priorities the next government faces include establishing better control over privatization and creating a functioning war crimes court and prosecution office, which would start the process of sidelining wartime leaders from political and public life.
Those issues have helped stalled reforms in the legislature and angered the electorate in a country where about one-third of the population is under the age of 15.
“For more than a year we didn’t have a functional government, and now I don’t trust them,” said Islam Fehmiu, a retiree from Pristina.
A total of 19 parties, five coalitions and backers of two citizens’ initiatives are running in the election. Of the 120 seats in parliament, 20 are reserved for ethnic Serbs and other minorities.
Opinion polls show two coalitions – the Self-Determination Movement and a coalition built around the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) – are likely to top the polls, once again setting up potentially tricky talks on forming a government.
In 2014 a six-month stalemate between the two largest parties ensued until they formed a grand coalition that was considered a failure as the country stagnated.