Polls are open in Kosovo for a general election seen as a vital test for Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, and for the country’s attempt to join the European Union.
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.
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.
(Photo of Kosovo flag by Quinn Dombrowski/flickr.com)