North Kosovo poll re-runs pass safely

Voter turn-out was seven times higher in the repeated elections, held under tight international and domestic security.

When polls closed at the repeated local elections in north of Kosovska Mitrovica, many of the ballot boxes were almost entirely filled, a testament to the success of the re-run elections. Only a little more than 20 percent of the people voted, but it still was almost seven times higher turnout than just two weeks ago.

The success wasn’t easily achieved. Huge numbers of security forces – both international and domestic – maintained a very visible presence as people cast their ballots in Kosovska Mitrovica north. According to Kosovo police spokesman Besim Hoti, the security forces did everything they could in order to prevent repeating of violence from November 3.

It was two weeks ago when voting was stopped after masked men entered a polling station, destroyed ballot boxes, smashed windows and injured election commission members.

Though the identity of the intruders is still unknown, fingers were quickly pointed at anti-election campaigners, dubbed “Serb extremists” by Belgrade.

Leader of boycott campaign and legislator in Serbian parliament, Marko Jaksic, talking to Al Jazeera was adamant that it wasn’t them who caused November 3 troubles.

“Why would we destroy ballot boxes when at the time only about two percents of people voted. We were getting ready to start celebrating victory of boycott and not to demolish ballot boxes. All the facts are suggesting that it was done by Belgrade.”

Smart choices

Because of fears that they could be again accused for being troublemakers or because of huge presence of security forces at all polling stations, unlike on November 3, boycott campaigners didn’t show up in front of voting stations to heckle those who decided to vote.

The Belgrade government strongly supported pro-election campaign, and even Ivica Dacic, Serbian prime minister, addressed north Kosovska Mitrovica citizens at the rally on Friday. He made clear to everybody that only way for Serbs from the north is voting in the local elections.

“Serbia can’t help you today by guns and tanks, not because Serbia don’t want to, but because they are not allowing us, and because we can’t win in this battle. Today we can win only by strong political connections and choosing smart choices. That’s why you need to grab power here.”

And good turnout of the voters in repeated Mitrovica elections is a win-win situation for Belgrade, Pristina and Brussels, because both Kosovo and Serbia are now one step closer to the EU.

Brussels is happy too. As a result of this success, ending of 14 years standoff in this part of Europe is closer than ever.

Although these elections will not remove deep divisions among Serbs in the north, the question now is whether the governments involved in resolving tensions in this part of Kosovo will live up to their promises and fulfil people’s expectations to bring better standard of living to this region.