Ex-Kosovo fighter claims victory

 

Kosovo was heading for a likely grand coalition this afternoon to lead the province into a final showdown with Serbia on the ethnic Albanian majority's demand for independence.

A senior official in Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party (PDK), which claimed victory in yesterday's

The head of Democratic Party of Kosovo Hashim Thaci gestures to his party supporters after claiming victory in Kosovo's parliamentary election.
The head of Democratic Party of Kosovo Hashim Thaci gestures to his party supporters after claiming victory in Kosovo's parliamentary election.

parliamentary election, said a coalition with the second-placed Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) was "most likely, since there's no other option".

The PDK and LDK have been bitter rivals since Mr Thaci's guerrilla fighters eclipsed the LDK's policy of passive resistance to Serb rule in the 1990s, under the guidance of the late independence leader, Ibrahim Rugova.

A second PDK source also said a PDK-LDK coalition was most likely, with the support of some smaller parties to secure a stable majority in the 120-seat parliament.

Mr Thaci's PDK won around 34 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results released by analysts, in a ballot marred by record low turnout and a Serb boycott to protest against Albanian independence plans.

"With our victory today begins the new century," Mr Thaci told cheering supporters. "We showed that Kosovo is ready to move forward towards freedom and independence."

Mr Thaci "crushes LDK", read the front-page headline of the Kosovo daily Express. The LDK saw its support collapse to 22 per cent from 45 per cent in 2004.

All parties back a quick declaration of independence from Serbia for the breakaway province, which has been under U.N. rule and NATO protection since 1999. Diplomats say it could come within weeks of Serb-Albanian negotiations ending in December.