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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Serbians Pass Constitutional Referendum, Anger the West

BELGRADE -- Serbian voters have approved a new constitution in a weekend referendum that reasserts the country's claim over breakaway Kosovo, according to partial results released Monday, while an opposition party alleged fraud.

The charter has irked Western observers and Kosovo officials because it asserts Serbia's claim to the province, despite ongoing international talks on its future status and demands by its ethnic Albanian majority for independence.

Referendum authorities who oversaw the two-day polling said Monday that, with 98.88 percent of the ballots counted, 96.5 percent of those who cast ballots had supported the charter.

Turnout among the 6.6 million electorate was 54.19 percent -- just over the 50 percent threshold required for the referendum to be valid. Serbia's opposition Liberal Party claimed, however, that the real turnout was below the requirement, and charged there was "massive fraud" at polling stations in the final hours of voting, with people allegedly voting several times and without identification.

State Electoral Commission President, Mihailo Rulic, said the reported irregularities were not "major," and could "not influence" the vote outcome.

"We made it clear that we will protect our country's integrity ... and that Kosovo is part of Serbia," Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said in an address to the nation after polls closed Sunday.

The European Commission said Monday that Serbia's adoption of a constitution declaring Kosovo an integral part of the country was contradictory because most of the breakaway province's people were not on the voting lists.

Commission spokeswoman Krisztina Nagy said: "The voters list which was used for yesterday's referendum ... does not include a majority of the population in Kosovo."