By Talha Ozturk
BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) – Kosovars on Sunday are heading to the polls to choose new members of the Balkan country's 120-seat parliament.
Sunday's election is the fourth parliamentary poll for Europe's youngest country since 2008, when it declared independence from Serbia.
The elections come after Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), stepped down this July, summoned by The Hague over his role in the 1998-99 insurgency against Serb forces.
Voting began at 7 a.m. local time and will continue till 7 p.m. (0500-1700GMT).
More than 1.9 million registered voters will able to cast their votes at nearly 900 polling stations throughout the country, according to Kosovo's Central Election Commission.
While its current population is about 1.8-1.9 million people, according to the World Bank and other sources, Kosovo has a large expatriate population which is eligible to vote.
Kosovo is also the youngest country in Europe, with over half of its population under the age of 25.
Some 50,000 observers are monitoring the election, where 20 political parties, four election alliances, and one independent candidate are competing.
Due to the large number of parties, another coalition government is expected to emerge from the ballot box.
Albanians make up the majority of the population in Kosovo, which is also home to various minority groups such as Turks, Bosniaks, Serbs, Gorani, Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians.
Most of the ethnic Turks live in Mamusha and Prizren and make up 1.1% of the country's population.
– 5 seeking premier's post
Five candidates are competing for the prime minister's post.
The AAK-PSD Coalition candidate is Ramush Haradinaj, the NISMA-AKR-PD Coalition candidate is Fatmir Limaj, the Self-Determination Movement (LVV) candidate is Albin Kurti, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) candidate is Vjosa Osmani, and the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) candidate is Kadri Veseli.
The Vakat Coalition consists of the Bosniak Democratic Party (DSB), the Democratic Party Vatan, and the United Bosniak Party (USB), while the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) and the Social Democratic Party (PSD) make up the second alliance competing in the election.
The Social Democratic Initiative (NISMA), the New Kosovo Alliance (AKR), and the Justice Party (PD) are in the third alliance, while the Sloboda alliance is made up of the Kosovo Development Party (PSK) and the New Kosovo Party (NPK).
The election’s main issues include the rule of law, the fight against corruption and organized crime, economic development, unemployment, stemming the flight of young people abroad, and integration with the European Union.
Dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, which still considers the country its territory, has not been a prominent issue in campaigns.
Also, no candidate has promised EU visa liberalization for Kosovars.
In Kosovo's last general election in 2017, the turnout was 41.3%.
The former Serbian province of Kosovo declared independence on Feb. 17, 2008, and is recognized by over 100 countries worldwide, including the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, and Turkey.