Leftist opposition party heads to victory in Kosovo election

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Albin Kurti, a candidate for prime minister of Vetevendosje (Self-Determination), casts his ballot paper in parliamentary elections in capital Pristina, Kosovo, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. Kosovo is holding an early parliamentary election to form a new government amid the coronavirus pandemic, an economic downturn and stalled negotiations with wartime foe Serbia. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

PRISTINA – Kosovo’s main opposition party appeared headed to a landslide victory in Sunday’s early election of a new parliament held amid the coronavirus pandemic, an economic downturn and stalled negotiations with wartime foe Serbia.

With 65% of the votes counted by the central Election Commission, the main governing election body, the left-wing Self-Determination Movement Party, or Vetevendosje, had 48% of the votes. It led two center-right parties — the Democratic Party of Kosovo, or PDK, which had 18%, and the Democratic League of Kosovo, or LDK, with 14%.

Hundreds of Vetevendosje supporters defied calls from the party leadership “to celebrate at home, with the family” and gathered at the Mother Teresa Square in Pristina chanting, dancing and launching firecrackers while vehicles blowing horns drove around the center.

“We are here to celebrate the liberation of our government and our people,” said Ali Shilova, a Vetevendosje! supporter. “We are the people of this country who will take over and make it for everybody, not just for people who are in power.”

Acting Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti of the LDK had yet to concede defeat.

Some 1.8 million voters cast ballots to choose 120 lawmakers among more than 1,000 candidates from 28 political groups and few irregularities were reported. Some 100,000 Kosovars abroad were also eligible to vote by post. Those infected with coronavirus could vote through mobile polling teams.

Voter turnout was estimated at 47%, which was 2.5% higher than the last election in 2019, according to the Central Election Commission.

“Today Kosovo showed how elections should be held, despite the many challenges it faced,” said Valdete Daka, election commission chief.