PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo’s main opposition party accused the authorities on Monday of allowing irregularities in a weekend parliamentary election in which both rival parties have claimed victory.
The European Union and the United States see the Sunday vote — Kosovo’s first since independence — as a test of its democratic maturity, with free and fair proceedings a condition for eventual membership of the EU.
Exit polls have put Prime Minister Hashim Thaci’s PDK party ahead in the election, prompting him to declare victory. First official results are due later on Monday.
The rival LDK party has objected, saying voting had been compromised in two Thaci strongholds where turnout was noticeably higher than the national average of 48 percent.
“The turnout of 94 percent is statistically impossible, logically unreasonable, politically unacceptable and legally contestable in Kosovo’s reality,” said LDK spokesman Arben Gashi. “We shall use all the legal means to bring legitimacy and democracy all over Kosovo.
Thaci’s party declined to comment on the allegations.
With more than half of votes counted by Monday morning, PDK had 30.6 percent, and LDK 26.2 percent, according to a group of non-governmental organisations following the counting.
Isa Mustafa, Pristina’s mayor and LDK’s head, told reporters the party planned to “ask for a re-run in two constituencies.”
Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians make up 92 percent of the population of 2.2 million, declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbs still dominate the north of the country.
European monitors said they were aware of the fraud allegations. “Serious allegations of fraud in two municipalities have been brought to the attention of the delegation,” said Doris Pack, head of a European Parliament observation mission.
“I do not think it will undermine the whole process,” she said, adding it was a “generally well-organised election day.”
Democracy in Action, a group of Kosovo non-governmental organisations with 5,000 observers, said it had also recorded “vote manipulation” in the two regions.
In Brussels, the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fuele, urged the authorities to press ahead with the post-election process and pave the way for a new government.
“Now it is up to the competent authorities to certify the results and to deal with complaints and appeals in line with the relevant laws and regulations,” a joint statement said.
“It is important now to rapidly form a new government and to elect a new President so that they can tackle the May challenges ahead,” they added. We have much work ahead of us in the coming year so that Kosovo can further advance towards the EU.”
Additional reporting by Justyna Pawlak; Editing by Adam Tanner and Maria Golovnina