Early results in Kosovo’s municipal election suggest centre-right opposition parties are leading, but runoffs will still be needed to decide half of the winners.
About 1.9 million voters are casting ballots to elect mayors for 38 municipalities and some 1,000 town hall lawmakers.
With about 25% of the vote counted, preliminary results showed that 19 communes will need a runoff in a month to elect their mayors, election officials said.
The main contest was for Pristina City Hall, where the ruling left-wing Self-Determination Party, or Vetevendosje!, is hoping to take control. But since it has not crossed the 50% result a runoff is expected in the capital.
Casting his ballot on Sunday, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti said: “Today, citizens will decide who will decide. I encourage all the people of all backgrounds, belongings and wealth to use this moment of equality to use this equal opportunity they have.”
Preliminary results in northern Kosovo, populated predominantly by the ethnic Serb minority, suggest the community’s Srpska List party, which is close to the Serbian government in Belgrade, has won most of the seats.
Voting there attracted much attention following two incidents in the past two months that have led to soaring tensions between Kosovo and Serbia.
Leaders of Kosovo’s Serbs walked together to the polling station in North Mitrovica. Serb List coalition leader Goran Rakic and candidate Milan Radojevic then cast their votes together.
Kosovo is a former Serb province with a majority ethnic Albanian population which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move not recognised by Belgrade.
Kosovo police clashed with ethnic Serbs during an anti-smuggling operation last week and in the last month a dispute over vehicle licence plates crossing their shared border was resolved only after mediation from the European Union and the United States. The NATO-led Kosovo Force, or KFOR, deployed troops to the border area, ending the spat.
International observers are due to issue a preliminary report on the vote on Tuesday.