OSCE set to avoid violence in Kosovo elections

PRISTINA, Jul 26, 2000 -- (Reuters) The U.N.-led administration in Kosovo said on Tuesday it would enforce a "zero tolerance" policy on violence and intimidation during a municipal election planned for October.

"We are dedicated to demonstrating zero tolerance on political violence and any acts of intimidation during the campaign," Liz Hume, a representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told a news conference.

"We are not out to punish people, we want to make sure people comply with laws," she said.

Hume is head of Kosovo's Central Electoral Commission secretariat. The OSCE operates under the umbrella of UNMIK, the UN mission in Kosovo.

UNMIK, which runs Kosovo as an effective protectorate even though the province formally remains part of Yugoslavia, is keen to present the poll as a major step towards introducing democracy despite a boycott by the Serb minority.

Officials say that around one million people, or some 90 percent of the eligible population, signed up during the voter registration process which ended earlier this month.

But fewer than 1,000 ethnic Serbs have registered from among as many as 100,000 now living in Kosovo. The Serb community is subject to almost daily attacks by members of the ethnic Albanian majority.

The attacks, seen by Albanians as vengeance for years of Serb repression, have plagued Kosovo since NATO and the UN took over the running of the province in June last year.

Twenty parties, two coalitions and 15 individual candidates have been registered by the commission for the October election.

To provide any sort of ethnic balance, Kosovo's United Nations governor Bernard Kouchner will have to appoint extra members to the municipal councils after the vote.

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