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Serb party calls for poll boycott in north Kosovo amid rising tensions

The main ethnic Serbian political party in northern Kosovo has called on the Serb community to boycott Sunday’s local elections, in the latest sign of a deepening rift with Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leadership.

The Serbian List party, backed by Serbia, also urged the Serb minority to “remain calm and not to fall to provocations by the regime of Albin Kurti,” referring to Kosovo’s elected prime minister.

“The Serbian List calls for a general boycott of these…elections organised by Kurti. All polling stations must be empty on April 23,” it said.

Serb officials from the area, administrative staff, judges, and police officers resigned collectively in November 2022, in protest over the Kosovo government’s plan to replace Serbian car licence number plates with those of Kosovo.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, following the 1998-99 war in which NATO intervened to protect the ethnic Albanian majority, but Serbia has not recognised the declaration and Kosovo’s Serbs view themselves as part of Serbia.

Belgrade and the Kosovo Serbs want the creation of an association of Kosovo Serb municipalities, in line with a decade-old EU-brokered deal with the Kosovo government in Pristina, before they take part in the vote.

“Serbs should look with contempt at all those who plan to … participate in this illegal and illegitimate process,” the Srpska Lista said in a statement.

On March 18, Pristina and Belgrade verbally agreed to implement a Western-backed plan aimed at improving ties and defusing tensions in northern Kosovo, by offering more autonomy to local Serbs with Pristina given ultimate control.

Kosovo’s election commission put containers to collect votes along main roads in the north of the country on Thursday ahead of Sunday’s vote, for fear of clashes if polling stations were set up.

On Tuesday, Kurti said Belgrade was intimidating Serbs from the north not to participate in elections. Only one of the 10 candidates is a Serb after another Serb withdrew.

READ MORE Serbia’s president briefs his Turkish counterpart Erdogan on Kosovo talks

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