Voters in Kosovo have begun casting their ballots in a snap parliamentary election overshadowed by concerns over the economy and tensions with neighbouring Serbia.

Sunday's poll takes place a year early following the collapse of Prime Minister Isa Mustafa's cabinet last month, which ended Kosovo's first grand coalition.

About 1.9 million Kosovars, of which nearly half a million live abroad, are registered to vote in the third election since the country declared independence in 2008. Polling stations opened at 7am (05:00 GMT) and will close at 7pm (17:00 GMT).

Nineteen political parties, five coalitions and two citizens' initiatives, all promising to secure growth, have nominated candidates for the 120-seat parliament.

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The new government will have to tackle unemployment running at 30 percent and improve relations with its neighbours, especially Serbia, a pre-condition for both countries to move forward in the European Union accession process.

Mustafa's government lost a no-confidence vote in March, accused by the opposition of failing to meet its pledges to improve the lives of the youngest population in Europe.

Opinion polls put a coalition led by former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj as the frontrunner.

His small Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) party signed a pre-election deal with the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), the biggest in the country and in power since 2007.

A victory for Haradinaj, however, would probably complicate relations with Serbia, which has issued an international warrant for his arrest for alleged war crimes.

A coalition led by Mustafa's Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and the leftist opposition party Vetevendosje (VV) which wants to unite all Albanians in one state are vying for second place in the vote, according to opinion polls.

Economy in focus

In a calm election campaign, almost all the political parties promised to boost economic growth to up to eight percent a year and to raise public sector wages by up to 40 percent.

Kosovo's economy has been growing steadily and is forecast to expand by around four percent in 2017 but the growth is mainly due to remittances from Kosovars living abroad.

The new government will also have to try to reach a border demarcation deal with Montenegro, which is the last condition for the EU to grant visa-free travel for Kosovars.

Neighbours Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have already secured visa-free travel with EU member states.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008, nine years after NATO bombing drove out Serbian forces accused of killing and expelling Kosovo Albanian civilians during two years of clashes. Serbia still refuses to recognise its independence.

Source: News agencies