The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has indicated that results from Kosovo’s local elections on November 4 in northern Mitrovica cannot be determined because of attacks on all three polling stations there.
Kosovar election officials and OSCE monitors were evacuated from the polling stations after masked men stormed the facilities — throwing canisters of tear gas and stealing or destroying ballot boxes.
Nikola Gaon, a spokesman for the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, told RFE/RL on November 4 that all ballots from northern Mitrovica appear to be lost.
“We don’t have that material in possession and we could not hand it over [to the Central Election Commission],” he said.
Gaon doubted whether the missing ballots could ever be recovered.
“From what we have seen from the video recordings posted on YouTube and other media, that material is damaged, torn,” he said. “So, in principle, I don’t know where that material is — if it ended up in trash cans or what happened to [the ballots] in the end.”
Serb hard-liners had kept up their calls to boycott the vote despite Belgrade’s public backing for participation by ethnic Serbs.
The OSCE’s Kosovo mission chief, Jean-Claude Schlumberger, says ballots from other Serb-dominated parts of northern Kosovo were transported to a central counting station near Pristina.
Kosovar President Atifete Jahjaga said the violence “will be met with a swift response” in an attempt to establish the rule of law in northern Kosovo.
In a statement, Jahjaga congratulated voters for their participation in the elections, which she said took place in “a generally calm and acceptable atmosphere.”
Jahjaga added that election irregularities will be “thoroughly investigated and prosecuted by the authorities.”
Serb officials in Belgrade had called for ethnic Serbs to vote in the local elections under an EU-brokered normalization deal reached with Pristina in April.
Serbia still officially rejects Kosovo’s independence, but the vote on November 4 was the first to get Belgrade’s backing since Pristina’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008.
Nevertheless, according to Washington-based political analyst Daniel Serwer, the attacks in northern Mitrovica ultimately could hurt Belgrade’s bid to join the European Union.
“People in Brussels expected Belgrade to be able to do something about that,” he said. “They may have tried; I don’t know the answer to that question. Did they try and fail, or did they not try? I don’t know. But I can tell you that it reflects badly on Belgrade and that, until they clean up the mess, they may be able to open negotiations; but those negotiations are going to have a hard time moving forward as long as this criminal element is able to escape Belgrade’s control and Pristina’s control.”