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Municipal elections in Northern Kosovo marred by violence

Stephanie Liechtenstein
Analysis 15 November 2013

The 3 November municipal elections in Northern Kosovo were considered an important test after the historic EU brokered agreement between Belgrade and Prishtinë/Priština, initialed by Serbia’s Prime Minister Ivica Dačić and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi on 19 April in Brussels (see previous blog). Article 12 of this agreement stipulates that the OSCE should facilitate elections in the northern Kosovo municipalities.[1] Hopes were high that the elections would mark a further step forward in the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Prishtinë/Priština.

It was therefore all the more disappointing and destructive when masked men stormed sixteen polling stations in Sveti Sava primary school as well as in the technical and medical schools in northern Mitrovica/Mitrovicë. They smashed ballot boxes and destroyed other election material, while setting off tear gas and assaulting OSCE staff and other people present in the polling stations. Two people were seriously injured during the incidents. Concerned about a “spillover of violence,”[2] the OSCE was forced to withdraw its staff and to also close polling stations in the other three municipalities.

The violent attacks were strongly condemned by the OSCE Secretary General who described them as “reprehensible” and as “attacks not only against personal dignity but against the right of citizens to exercise their free democratic choice.”[3]

Meanwhile the BBC reports that Kosovo’s electoral commission annulled results from three polling stations in the Serb-dominated town of Mitrovica/Mitrovicë and quotes the Kosovo central electoral commission as stating that “the date for a repeat vote in these three polling centres will be determined later.”[4]

The violent attacks are a clear sign that much work remains to be done to ease tensions between Albanians and Serbs living in Kosovo and to actually implement the EU brokered agreement.


[1] Text of historic agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, European Voice, 19 April 2013, available at: http://www.europeanvoice.com/page/3609.aspx?&blogitemid=1723

[2] See statement by OSCE Head of Mission in Kosovo, Ambassador Jean-Claude Schlumberger, available at: http://www.osce.org/kosovo/107768

[3] See OSCE press release “Kosovo municipal elections – OSCE Secretary General condemns violence”, Vienna, 4 November 2013, available at: http://www.osce.org/sg/107781

[4] BBC News Europe, “Kosovo violence: Poll re-run is ordered in Mitrovica“, 6 November 2013, available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24841925