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The north of Kosovo votes today for the dismissal of the Albanian mayors

2024-04-21 08:31:00, Kosova & Bota CNA

The north of Kosovo votes today for the dismissal of the Albanian mayors

In the four municipalities in the north of Kosovo, the citizens vote today whether or not they want to remove the Albanian municipal mayors. The process is held amid calls from the Serbian List to boycott the voting in the municipalities inhabited by a majority of Serbs.

The spokesperson of the Central Election Commission (CEC), Valmir Elezi, at the first press conference, announced that all polling stations are open.

They will close at 19:00.

Elezi said that "there may have been some technical delay in the opening of some polling stations", but added that this is common.

The Radio Free Europe team, which is in the field, reports that after the opening of the polling stations in North Mitrovica, no one used the right to vote.

Only election observers were seen in the polling stations, but not citizens who voted.

The situation is similar in Zubin Potok. In the voting center, located in the municipality building, according to REL journalists, on Sunday morning, no one used the right to vote.

For these votes, in North Mitrovica, Zveçan, Zubin Potok and Leposaviq, 46,556 people have the right to vote, or 1,461 more voters compared to the local elections held on April 23, 2023, when the Albanian mayors were elected.

In North Mitrovica, 18,796 people have the right to vote. In Leposavic, this number is 13,674. In Zveçan, 7,209 people have the right to vote, while in Zubin Potok, 6,877 people have the right to vote. For the vote to dismiss the mayors to be considered successful, 50 percent plus one voter will need to vote in the respective municipalities.

In the four municipalities in the north there will be 23 polling stations, with 63 polling stations and four centers for conditional voting.

According to the CEC, there will be eight voting centers in Leposaviq, while in Zveçan, Zubin Potok and North Mitrovica there will be five - a much lower number of voting centers in the north than the 43 that were originally approved by the CEC.

At the last meeting of the CEC held the day before the elections, it was said that the directors of the 33 schools in the north - which work according to the Serbian system - said that they have "school activities" and cannot give the facilities for use for the voting process. Therefore, the CEC has decided that some alternative facilities will be converted into polling stations.

Why are the votes being held?

The extraordinary elections of April 2023, which were held after the withdrawal of Serbs from Kosovo institutions at the end of 2022 as a sign of dissatisfaction with the decision on license plates of the Government of Kosovo, were boycotted by the Serbian parties and population.

As a result, the leadership of Leposaviq was taken by Lulzim Hetemi from the Vetëvendosje Movement, that of Zubin Potok by Izmir Zeqiri from the Democratic Party of Kosovo, the leadership of Zveçan was entrusted to Ilir Peci from the PDK, while Erden Atiq was elected as the head of North Mitrovica from the Vetëvendosje Movement.

In May 2023, when these mayors - excluding Atiq - went to office to start their mandate, they were faced with a revolt of the local population, who protested in front of the municipal buildings, which were also municipal facilities operating under the Serbian system.

The situation escalated on May 29 in Zveçan, after clashes between protesters and members of the NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, KFOR. As a result, dozens of people were injured on both sides.

The international factor called on Kosovo to organize new elections.

In September 2023, the Government of Kosovo issued an administrative instruction that allowed citizens to follow certain procedures to dismiss mayors.

According to the instructions, the Serbs, through petitions, collected 20 percent of the necessary signatures - from the total number of registered voters - and the CEC set April 21 as the date of the vote.

According to the instruction, it will take 50 percent, plus one vote, from the list of voters to vote for the dismissal of the mayor of the respective municipality. Then, the result is sent to the president, Vjosa Osmani, who has 30 to 45 days to announce the elections.

As the CEC had already started the procedures for organizing the votes, Lista Serbe – the largest party of Serbs in Kosovo that enjoys the support of Belgrade – announced on April 7 that it would boycott the votes.

The head of this party, Zlatan Ellek, complained that the authorities have established "unfeasible procedures" for the April 21 vote and that the voter lists "do not reflect the real situation on the ground", arguing that the number of Albanians on the voter lists " has grown".

"The position of the Serbian List is not to participate in the referendum called by Albin Kurti [Prime Minister of Kosovo], because he did everything to make it fail," he said.

In the following days, Lista Serbe withdrew its members from the Municipal Electoral Commissions.

The decision of the Serbian List to boycott the votes was criticized by the European Union, which called on this entity to reconsider the decision and not call for a boycott.

The Prime Minister of Kosovo, Kurti, meanwhile, on April 19 called on the Serbs to vote if they want to dismiss the presidents, arguing that they can only be dismissed through votes, "not gangs". He said that if the citizens decide to dismiss the mayors, the Government guarantees that this decision will be implemented "quickly"./ REL 

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