The controversial referendum in northern Kosovo has come to an end, spelling an overwhelming rebuke of the NATO-backed Kosovo government as some 75 percent of voters in the ethnic Serbian north turned out to vote on that government’s legitimacy.
The final results of the poll won’t be released until later in the week, but early indications from local leaders are that in excess of 99 percent of the vote will be against recognition of the Pristina government.
This is unsurprising, as the ethnic Serb north has been mostly persecuted by the Kosovo government, which is dominated by ethnic Albanians. Since the referendum was rejected by the government, along with the EU and United Nations, it is unlikely anyone who was supportive of Pristina would turn out.
Still, the rejection by a strong majority of the voters in northern Kosovo underscores a very serious credibility problem in Pristina. NATO has committed to keeping Kosovo “intact” but doing so would inevitably mean forcing tens of thousands of ethnic Serbs in an overwhelmingly Serbian region to remain under Kosovar rule with no access to trade with its neighbors across the UNMIK line.