Voters in Kosovo casts their ballots in parliamentary elections, which are seen as a vital test for the territory\’s EU bid.
The prime minister and former rebel chief, Hashim Thaci, of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), is hoping for a third term in office.
But he is facing a strong challenge from the Democratic League of Kosovo.
The 46-year-old former guerrilla leader turned politician has led Kosovo for seven years, overseeing its 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia.
Frustration with Kosovo\’s progress since independence is running high among many of its 1.8 million people who rank among Europe\’s poorest. Kosovo also has an unemployment rate of about 35 percent. The group Transparency International ranks Kosovo 111th in its 2013 corruption index.
All parties support Kosovo\’s ambition to join the EU.
Thaci was one of the leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army, which took up arms in the late 1990s to break free from the repressive rule of Serbia under then-strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
Kosovo became a ward of the United Nations in 1999. It declared independence almost a decade later and has been recognized by more than 100 countries, but not neighboring Serbia or Russia.