PRISTINA – Center-right opposition parties in Kosovo were leading in Sunday's municipal election but runoffs will still be needed to decide half of the winners, according to early results.
About 1.9 million voters in the small Balkan nation were electing mayors for 38 municipalities and about 1,000 town hall lawmakers. Election officials said preliminary turnout was 42.5%, slightly less than four years ago.
With about 25% of the vote counted, preliminary results showed that 19 communes will need a runoff in a month to elect their mayors, election officials said.
The main contest was for Pristina City Hall, for which the governing left-wing Self-Determination Party, or Vetevendosje!, had nominated its former health minister, Arben Vitia. The Vetevendosje! is leading the contest, but since it has not crossed the 50% result a runoff is expected in the capital of Kosovo.
Voting was peaceful. Police arrested seven people for possible voting violations.
The Srpska List party of Kosovo's ethnic Serb minority, which is close to the Serbian government in Belgrade, has won most of the seats in northern Kosovo, according to preliminary results.
The past two months has seen soaring tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, a former Serb province with a majority ethnic Albanian population which declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Serbia has not recognized the move.
Kosovo police clashed with ethnic Serbs during an anti-smuggling operation last week and in the last month a dispute over vehicle license plates crossing their shared border was resolved only after mediation from the European Union and the United States. The NATO-led Kosovo Force, or KFOR, deployed troops to the border area, ending the spat.
International observers will issue a preliminary report Tuesday on the vote.