According to a UN poll, only 16 percent of Kosovo Serbs plan to vote on Sunday.
By Safet Kabashaj for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 28/10/13
Kosovo Serbs wait to welcome Serbia Prime Minister Ivica Dacic to Pristina. [Safet Kabashaj/SETimes]
Kosovo's municipal elections on Sunday (November 3rd) have important consequences for both Pristina and Belgrade in terms of their EU accession.
As part of the deal signed in April between Serbia and Kosovo to normalise relations, the Serb-dominated municipalities in Kosovo's north need to be incorporated into Kosovo's legal system and are required to take part in the local elections.
The vote is the first that will be held over the entire territory of Kosovo since the country declared its independence in 2008.
According to the Central European Policy Institute, the elections will be a test for the Brussels Agreement, determining whether it will be able to reconfigure the tricky relationship between the two countries and lead to their EU integration.
Dragan Popovic, executive director of the Policy Centre in Belgrade, said the Serbian government, which is expected to receive a final decision about the start of its negotiations with the EU just weeks after the Kosovo election, has both the power and the motivation to convince the Serbs in northern Kosovo to vote.
"One of the most important issues for the implementation of the agreement is the election process and the formal end of the parallel structure in northern Kosovo. Participation of the Serbs in the Kosovo elections will be the final sign that Kosovo has legal and political jurisdiction over the whole territory and [that there is an] end of the Serbian parallel system, at least in the political institutional framework. That is very important both in a practical and symbolic way," Popovic said.
However, a recent survey by the UN Development Programme showed that only 16 percent of Kosovo Serbs plan to vote Sunday, while 44 percent said they will boycott the election.
The results follow a visit by Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic to Kosovo on October 19th, where he urged the Serb minority in Kosovo to vote and therefore, "protect the Serbian national interest" in the country.
"We expect quite a good turnout of all citizens in the November elections, including Serb citizens," Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuqi told SETimes.
Complicating things is the fact that out of the 33 Serbian parties with candidates in the election, Belgrade is endorsing only one -- the Serbian Civic Initiative, called Srpska.
Petar Miletic from the Independent Liberal Party, a partner in Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's government, said that Belgrade's endorsement is dividing Kosovo Serbs into "loyal" and "non-loyal" camps.
The support from Belgrade puts Srpska in an advantageous position, but Miletic is hopeful that Kosovo Serbs will recognise the contribution of those "other Serbs."
"I believe people have realised that Belgrade now is admitting that we've been right," Miletic said, alluding to Belgrade's decision to let Serbs participate in Kosovo elections.
Opposition Liberal Democratic Party official Mladen Basic said Serbs should participate in the election and Belgrade should not divide them. "Serbs should take responsibility for their life in Kosovo," he said.
Correspondent Linda Karadaku in Pristina contributed to this report.
How can the two countries ensure that Kosovo Serbs will head to the polls? Tell us what you think below.