Swiss election observer upbeat about Kosovo elections

Ethnic Albanians wait in line in 1998 before casting their ballots in Pristina, in underground elections regarded as illegal by Belgrade Keystone

The head of the international observer mission to Kosovo, Switzerland's Victor Ruffy, says he is confident that next month's local elections in the province will pass off peacefully, despite ethnic tensions.

This content was published on September 7, 2000 minutes

Ruffy told a news conference in Berne on Thursday that the situation remained extremely volatile, largely because of alleged provocations by the authorities in Belgrade.

He said Belgrade was fuelling tensions by insisting on organising separate elections for the federal Yugoslav government in the ethnically divided region in just over two weeks.

"The situation defies any logic," Ruffy said, referring to an announcement by the Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, that he is planning a visit to Kosovo as part of his election campaign. The International War Crimes Tribunal is seeking his arrest for alleged atrocities.

Kosovo is part of the Yugoslav Federation, but has been administered by the international community since last year's conflict in the province. There are currently 35,000 international peacekeepers in Kosovo.

Ruffy said preparations for the municipal elections were going ahead as planned, despite tension between the majority ethnic Albanians and minority Serbs.

He pointed out that only 2,000 of the estimated 100,000 ethnic Serbs have so far registered for the October vote. One million voters, mainly ethnic Albanians, and 25 different political parties are taking part in the elections for 30 local authorities in Kosovo.

Ruffy, a former member of the Swiss parliament, also said many parties had not yet come forward with a concept of their political aims. He insisted that they have to commit themselves to a code of conduct.

Ruffy is leading the mission of the Council of Europe on behalf of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

swissinfo with agencies

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