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Ex-rebel commander poised to win Kosovo polls

Preliminary results from the parliamentary elections in Kosovo show that an alliance led by an ex-rebel commander wanted by Serbia for alleged war crimes has won the majority of the votes.

With 80% of the votes counted, an alliance of Ramush Haradinaj, a former prime minister and an ex-rebel commander, garnered about 35 percent of the votes, according to the electoral commission.

The commission further said that Prime Minister Isa Mustafa’s coalition, led by the Democratic League of Kosovo, won around 25 percent while the left-wing opposition party Vetevendosje also garnered as much.

However, Ismet Kryeziu, the head of the Democracy in Action non-governmental organization, warned no party should celebrate too soon.

Kosovo is a Muslim-dominated country, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Mustafa called the snap elections in May after his government lost a no-confidence vote over accusations from the opposition that he had failed to deliver on his pledges for an improvement in Kosovo’s economic situation.

Ramush Haradinaj (L), the leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, and Kadri Veseli the leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) coalition celebrate their anticipated victory, in Pristina, early on June 12, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Haradinaj served as the commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army during the 1998-1999 war with Serbia.

A victory for Haradinaj, the leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, which includes parties that emerged from the liberation war, is expected to complicate relations with Serbia, which has issued an international arrest warrant against him for alleged war crimes. Haradinaj has categorically denied the allegations.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague has already tried Haradinaj twice and acquitted him of war crimes. He had resigned as prime minister after just 100 days in 2005 to face the charges.

Major challenges await the new government, including the reduction of unemployment — running at 30% — and the lowering of tensions with Serbia, a country that has yet to recognize Kosovo as a state.

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