Almost three years after its declaration of independence, backed by the U.S. and many of its allies, Kosovo is the object of increasing concern for the international community.
On Dec. 12, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), led by incumbent Kosovan Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, won a plurality in Kosovo's first post-independence general elections. Only days later, Thaci, a Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) leader, was accused of being the head of a mafia organization involved in murder, human-rights abuses, organ harvesting and heroin smuggling, among other offenses, in a report for the Council of Europe leaked to the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper. Thaci has vociferously defended himself against the allegations, which implicate him and the violent Drenica group, reportedly headed by Thaci, in crimes including the smuggling of Serbian prisoners of the Kosovo War across the border to Albania, where some were allegedly executed for their kidneys. The group, which was apparently a controlling faction of the KLA, are accused of carrying out "assassinations, detentions, beatings and interrogations" and of involvement in a range of trafficking activities.
The December elections have themselves provoked controversy. The results were immediately contested by opposition parties, and irregularities were reported by several senior observers, including the U.S. ambassador. One unnamed diplomat has said that fraud was committed on an "industrial scale," with unusually high turnouts reported in PDK strongholds. Allegations have also been made of vote-rigging in Serb areas, where fights broke out in polling stations and voting papers were stolen. The Serbian community in the country appears divided, with most in the north boycotting the poll. Turnout was higher in Serb enclaves in the south and center of the country, where people are more isolated from their compatriots and more reliant on Kosovan public-sector jobs. It seems likely that the leading Serb party -- accused of vote-buying and intimidation -- will take a significant number of seats and use them to back the PDK.