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Kosovar Serbs Launch Petition To Dismiss Local Ethnic Albanian Mayors

Local Serbs in North Mitrovica gather to sign a petition for the removal of Kosovar Albanian mayors on January 17 (c) Bujar Terstena RFE/RL

Ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo have begun signing a petition to dismiss Albanian mayors in two of the four Serb-majority cities who were elected in snap polls last year amid a boycott of the vote by local Serbs.

Kosovo, after facing punitive measures from the European Union, pledged to reorganize the elections in the four Serb-majority municipalities in the north -- North Mitrovica, Zvecan, Zubin Potok, and Leposavic -- but said it would do so only through an administrative instruction that enables the residents of each city to dismiss their mayors through a petition signed by at least 20 percent of registered voters.

The four cities are currently led by ethnic Albanian mayors who took office amid very low voter turnout in the April snap polls prompted by a Serb boycott spearheaded by the dominant ethnic Serbian party, Srpska Lista (Serbian List), which has close ties with neighboring Serbia.

The snap polls had been called after the ethnic Serbian mayors of the four cities resigned in November 2022 to protest a cross-border dispute between the central Kosovar government and Serbia over vehicle registrations.

Hundreds of people gathered to sign the petitions after the lists were opened at 9 a.m. on January 17 in North Mitrovica and Leposavic, RFE/RL correspondents reported. In the other two cities, Zvecan and Zubin Potok, the petition will be opened for signatures next week.

Serbian List representatives were among the first to sign the petitions.

In North Mitrovica, at least 3,640 signatures out of the 18,199 registered voters are needed for the mayor to be dismissed, while in Leposavic, at least 2,689 out of 13,441 voters must sign the petition to oust the current mayor.

If all the required administrative steps are met, then a vote can be held on the departure of the mayors and new elections announced.

In May, dozens of NATO-led KFOR troops were injured in Zvecan in clashes with ethnic Serbs who were attempting to prevent the installation of the ethnic Albanian mayor.

Ethnic Serbs, concentrated in the north, compose some 1 to 2 percent of Kosovo's population of around 2 million people.

Fifteen years after the mostly ethnic Albanian former province declared independence from Serbia, Belgrade continues to oppose recognition of Kosovo.

Many ethnic Serbs in Kosovo continue to lean heavily on support from Serbia and nationalist President Aleksandar Vucic



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