[JURIST] Kosovo [official website] on Sunday held its first elections for mayors and local councilors since the country’s secession from Serbia [official website]. The elections, facilitated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) [official website], are mandated by the countries’ 19 April Agreement [text, JURIST report], which requires active Serb participation in Kosovo politics. The night before and the day of the election have been fraught with violence [AP report], with many ethnic Serbs decrying the elections as treason and refusing to participate. In a statement released Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] strongly encouraged [press release] “the widest possible participation” in the elections, explaining that the conclusion of free and fair elections this Sunday will “constitute a milestone in the strengthening of peace and security in Kosovo.”
Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo have remained high since Kosovo declared itself an independent nation, due in part to Serbia’s continued refusal to recognize it as such. Kosovo’s parliament approved a Declaration of Independence [text; JURIST report] in 2008, an action immediately denounced as illegal by the Serbian government. In 2010 the Serbian National Assembly passed a resolution [JURIST report] that Serbia would never recognize Kosovo as an independent nation, stressing the need to maintain Serbian sovereignty in the region. This declaration came only a week after the International Court of Justice ruled that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence did not violate international law [JURIST report]. Since its declaration of independence, Kosovo has struggled to establish a more efficient judicial system [JURIST op-ed], which has impacted its judiciary’s ability to regulate Kosovar attorneys [JURIST op-ed].