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Serbs in the north of Kosovo boycott the referendum for the removal of the Albanian mayors of the municipalities

2024-04-21 17:51:25, Kosova & Bota CNA

Serbs in the north of Kosovo boycott the referendum for the removal of the

On Sunday in the north of Kosovo, votes are being held for the dismissal of the Albanian mayors in the four municipalities inhabited by Serb majority, which would pave the way for new elections, but amid the calls of the Serbian List for their boycott, the vote is not expected fulfill this goal.

By late afternoon, according to the Central Election Commission, only a few hundred people out of about 46,500 registered voters had cast ballots.

Currently North Mitrovica, Zubin Potoku, Leposaviçi and Zveçani are led by the Albanian mayors who emerged from the elections of April 23 last year, which were boycotted by Serbian political parties.

The sending of the mayors to their offices at the end of May last year was strongly opposed by groups of Serbian citizens who clashed with Kosovo police and NATO peacekeeping forces, injuring over 90 members of KFOR.

The government of Kosovo, which faced punitive measures from the European Union due to tensions in the north, agreed to organize new elections, through a vote for the dismissal of the current presidents.

In January, Serbian citizens in the northern municipalities signed a petition for the dismissal of the mayors, and after that the Central Election Commission announced the day of voting for dismissal.

But, although it participated in signing the petition, the Serbian List founded and supported by Belgrade announced on April 7 that it will not participate in the vote, accusing Prime Minister Albin Kurti of making continuous efforts to make this vote fail. The list said that one of the reasons for non-participation is the inflation of the voter list, but without providing any evidence for this claim.

The decision provoked the reaction of the United States and the European Union, who asked this party to reconsider the decision, while the government of Kosovo should sensitively handle the concerns raised by the citizens in the north of the country.

The authorities in Pristina accused Belgrade of putting pressure on Kosovo Serbs.

Despite the situation, the Central Election Commission decided to continue the process by opening 23 polling stations. According to the instructions, citizens can answer with "Yes" or "No" to the question of whether they agree that the mayor of the municipality should be dismissed.

Voting centers will be open until 19:00.

It is currently unclear what will happen if the referendum, which requires 50 percent plus one of voters, fails, as one cannot be held before 12 months have passed.

The process of organizing new elections in the north was supported by the West in an effort to reduce tensions between Kosovo and Serbia, which continue to remain high.

Serbia reacted with anger during the week after Kosovo received the green light from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for membership in this organization. Belgrade has launched a campaign to prevent the vote in the Council of Ministers of this mechanism in May. On Wednesday, the authorities in Belgrade blocked many travelers from Kosovo returning home through the territory of Serbia for more than 18 hours. Although Belgrade said it was not about obstruction but "increasing security measures", Pristina accused Serbia of retaliatory actions after the vote in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The United States and the European Union condemned the violation of free movement.

Earlier this month, Lista Serbe called on the Serbian community to boycott the population census that began on April 5.

Next week, Kosovo and Serbia will hold a new round of talks in Brussels regarding the use of the dinar in areas inhabited by members of the Serbian community, an issue that prompted an angry reaction from Belgrade, but is the disagreement of Western diplomats.

The United States and the European Union have been trying to push for an agreement to normalize relations between the two countries amid concerns about stability in the region after a Kosovo police officer was killed on September 24 last year by a group of armed Serbs in the north.

The European Union has warned both sides that failure to normalize relations will harm their aspirations for membership of the bloc.

In October of last year, European leaders asked Belgrade to fulfill all the agreements leading to the "de facto" recognition of Kosovo, while Pristina to establish the Association of municipalities with a Serbian majority./ VOA

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