Residents of four Serb-majority municipalities vote on removing Albanian mayors from office

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A voter is identified before he casts his vote at a polling station in North Mitrovica, Kosovo on April 21. (AP)

PRISTINA, Kosovo, April 21, (AP): Residents of four Serb-majority municipalities are casting their votes Sunday on removing their ethnic Albanian mayors from office following last year’s mayoral elections, overwhelmingly boycotted by the Serb minority.
The referendum – supported by the West – is an attempt to diffuse tensions between Kosovo and its neighboring Serbia as both countries vie to join the European Union. However, Kosovo’s main ethnic Serb party, Srpska List which has close ties with Belgrade, has called to boycott Sunday’s poll.
Some 46,500 residents are expected to vote in 47 polling stations, and for the mayors to step down, a majority vote is needed.
In June, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti offered to hold new elections in North Mitrovica, Zvecan, Leposavic and Zubin Potok if 20% of the electorate in the municipalities supported a petition for the polls. Residents voted in favor of the petition in January,
When Albanian mayors took up the offices last May, Kosovo Serbs clashed with security forces, including NATO-led KFOR peacekeepers, injuring 93 troops, while protesting the results.
Serbia has backed calls for the mayors to step down.
Kosovo was a former Serbian province until a 78-day NATO bombing campaign in 1999 ended a war between Serbian government forces and ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo, which left some 13,000 dead, mainly ethnic Albanians, and pushed Serbian forces out. Serbia doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s 2008 independence.

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