Kosovar political parties intensified their election campaigns with tours throughout the country and concluded with rallies in the capital of Priština in a bid to attract as many voters as they could in advance of the Saturday 28 October municipal elections.
Although there were dozens of rallies, the electoral campaigns went very peacefully—in stark contrast to the violence for which international authorities had prepared.
The OSCE reported that as many as 25,729 Kosovo residents had, as of 25 October, already voted outside the country for the 28 October local election. Some 38,000 voter packages were mailed to Kosovars living outside Kosovo, mainly in Western Europe and in neighboring countries.
According to the OSCE, 901,000 eligible voters were set to cast ballots for municipal councilors in Saturday's poll.
Some 1500 international supervisors were expected to supervise about 380 voting centers; 2200 domestic observers had, by Thursday 26 October, been accredited and about 1800 more observer applications were pending.
The Council of Europe (CofE) sent 150 observers from 20 countries. The United States sent 20 observers of its own, while Canada sent ten and Japan two. The largest European delegation came from the Netherlands, with 20 observers, followed by Italy with ten, and Ireland and Austria with seven each. France sent three.
Responsibility for the counting process lies with the OSCE Mission in Kosovo and the Municipal Election Commissions in each municipality. The counting of ballots is to take place both within individual polling stations throughout Kosovo and at the counting center in Priština.
the head of the OSCE Mission, Ambassador Daan Everts, opened the OSCE Elections Media Center on Thursday 19 October, which became the focal point for regular election-related briefings. The center provided journalists with comprehensive election-related reference materials.
KFOR commander LtGen Carlo Cabigiosu said he was satisfied with the electoral campaign and assured reporters that all of his troops would do what was necessary on election day to ensure a safe and secure environment, with freedom of movement for all the people of Kosovo.
"I am extremely satisfied with the peaceful atmosphere in which campaigning for the Kosovo municipal elections has taken place. Further, I wish to commend all of the people of Kosovo for the spirit of democracy they exhibited during all of the various political rallies. Peaceful and fair elections will be an important signal to the international community that Kosovo is prepared to move forward in a democratic manner."
Finally, after heavy pressure from local Albanian political parties, the OSCE agreed to allow national flags to fly in Kosovo on election day, although they were banned from being displayed in polling stations.
Although Everts couched the decision by saying all flags could be flown, local Kosovar Albanian politicians were uniform in believing that the initial flag ban was directed particularly at the Albanian flag.
Holbrooke visits Kosovo
American Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke was on a two-day visit to Kosovo this week, during which he called on the UN to introduce plans for general elections in Kosovo if the province's upcoming local polls are free and fair.
"My own view is, the earlier the general election, the better, because it legitimizes the will of the Kosovar Albanian people and, I hope, the Serb population of Kosovo," Holbrooke said.
He also indicated that the international community may soon be ready to begin negotiations on the final status of Kosovo. But he added that the international community needs to await the outcome of the municipal vote, and of other elections in the region, before considering the final status of the province.
However, he made it clear that Kosovo could not go on indefinitely as some kind of international protectorate.
Kosovo's conditional independence
An Independent International Commission on Kosovo, established when the prime minister of Sweden, Goran Persson, become concerned over the absence of independent analysis on the conflict in Kosovo, has come up with the idea that the province should be given the status of "conditional independence."
The Commission defines "conditional independence" as meaning that Kosovo would become independent, subject to the fulfillment of a number of conditions that may take many years. One of these conditions is that there be good faith negotiations with neighboring countries, and with the Balkan states generally, on the future independence of Kosovo.
Independence would be conditional on what is generally accepted to be a democratic constitution and upon sufficient assurance that Serbs, Roma and any other minorities in Kosovo could live in absolute safety and that those who had been forced to leave Kosovo could return there without fear.
The EU immediately announced it would not support the Commission's findings.
"My answer is simple and direct: the position of the EU on Kosovo is based on resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council," which urges "substantial autonomy" for the province within Yugoslavia, External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten said while in Belgrade.
Kouchner proposes Kosovo talks in Zagreb
UN Interim Administration Mission (UNMIK) chief Bernard Kouchner has proposed that the UN and the leadership of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) begin talks on the future of Kosovo at a Balkans summit to be held in Zagreb, Croatia, on 24 November 2000.
Kouchner will represent Kosovo at the summit, possibly along with a delegation of Kosovo political leaders, UNMIK spokeswoman Susan Manuel told journalists in Priština.
Serious crimes in Kosovo declining
Serious offenses such as murder, kidnapping, grievous assault and arson have been declining steadily in the past week in Kosovo, UNMIK police spokesman Derek Chappel reported.
He said a pattern has been developing in the past 12 months which points to a declining crime rate.
Justice chief defends tarnished court system
Sylvie Pantz, the joint head of Kosovo's UN-run justice system, branded as "unrealistic" an OSCE report which accused her department of ethnic bias and human rights abuses.
"It is true that the judicial system of Kosovo falls short of international standards; however, I find this report too ambitious and at some points unrealistic, academic and luxurious," she said.
She said that Kosovo judges were asked to act as "heroes," that she had begged NATO peacekeepers to provide better security for court houses and was battling against a crippling lack of basic equipment in courtrooms.
French soldier commits suicide
A French peacekeeper was found dead of a gunshot wound in the Kosovo city of Mitrovica.
The French Army's press service said the soldier was alone in a truck and had been killed by his own weapon.
The French Gendarmerie concluded its investigation into the soldier's death, ruling it a suicide. The soldier, Geoffroy Simonnet, was 23 years old and had arrived in Kosovo in September.
OSCE/UNHCR report on ethnic minorities
The OSCE and the UNHCR have produced a report on ethnic minorities in Kosovo for the period of June to September 2000.
It said adequate security remains the key issue for minorities. The response of the international community is critical in determining how sustainable a future minority communities can expect, it said, noting that an effective and fair judicial system is a necessary component of a democratic society.
Access to essential services remains critical. Steps were taken to tackle hate speech in the media, which fuels ethnic intolerance. Employment is a key issue in ensuring minority communities have a sustainable future.
Kosovo is now at a critical juncture, the report continues, noting that the 28 October municipal elections and their aftermath will represent the international community's first significant withdrawal from direct governance of the province.
It is of immense importance that the newly elected municipal authorities in Kosovo not only respect the rights of minorities but also take positive steps to improve their position and to facilitate their return, the report concludes.
Llazar Semini, 28 October 2000
Llazar Semini is the Kosova Project Manager for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
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