The moderate Ibrahim Rugova has emerged as the likely victor of local elections. His victory could create a new path by which Kosovo might achieve independence from the Yugoslav Federation. And there are tentative signs that the West might shift towards acceptance of this goal.
Rugova's party elected
The troubled Yugoslav region of Kosovo has, unsurprisingly, plumped for peace. On October 28, Kosovo went to the polls in its first free municipal elections. Official results placed the moderate Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) as outright victors with 58 per cent of the vote. LDK leader Ibrahim Rugova is well known for his commitment to pacifism, idolizing Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. The election results show that Rugova and his party have virtually swept the board in the 30 municipalities, in what were deemed by international monitors to be free and fair elections.
This is bad news for Rugova's main rival, Hashim Thaçi. The former head of the guerilla group the Kosovan Liberation Army (KLA), Thaçi fronted the KLA's fight for independence in 1998 to 1999 that eventually resulted in the Serb crackdown and NATO bombings. Thaçi now heads the nationalistic Democratic Party for Kosovo (PDK) and favors an immediate declaration of independence from the Yugoslav Federation. Rugova favors a peaceful and steady transition to independence; it now seems that the majority of Kosovans would agree with him.
In 1989 Slobodan Milošević, then president of Serbia, withdrew Kosovo's autonomy. Since that moment Kosovo has stepped up its demands for independence and in 1992 Rugova was elected president, albeit unofficially. For a decade Kosovo has regarded itself as a separate entity. Now, Kosovan Albanians are just steps away from gaining official national status—much to the dismay of the Serbs.
Considered to be the cradle of the Serbian nation, the loss of Kosovo from Serbia and Yugoslavia would be a wrench for Serbs everywhere. Vojislav Koštunica, the new Yugoslav President, has announced that the Kosovo elections are not valid because the Serbs of Kosovo had not taken part in the vote. But, with a Serb population of around 100,000 and an Albanian population of over 900,000, a Serb vote would have had little proportional effect on the overall outcome. Serb resistance will be a difficult obstacle to overcome but the United States may offer a helping hand.
Until now, NATO has been united under the terms of the Kosovo Peace Accord, which set out a plan for the restoration of Kosovan autonomy—not
Although the elections were for representatives in local administrative units, they have shown how Kosovans are likely to vote in national elections. Indeed, the elections may represent something more: how Kosovo will achieve independence, rather than if Kosovo will achieve independence. The terms of the 1999 peace accord made it almost impossible for independence not to be an option. With Rugova at the helm, Kosovo may be heading out in deeper waters.
Catherine Lovatt, 6 October 2000
Republished courtesy of eCountries.com
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