PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro, Feb 9, 2006 (AFP)
Kosovo is set to elect a moderate on Friday to succeed the late president Ibrahim Rugova and lead the province's ethnic Albanian majority in their push for independence from Serbia.
Fatmir Sejdiu, 54, is the only candidate that has been named for the position, three weeks after the death of Rugova, whom most Kosovo Albanians saw as the "Father of the Nation".
Kosovo's parliamentary speaker Nexhat Daci on Thursday announced the decision that the formal vote would be held in the province's 120-seat assembly after a meeting of the chamber's Albanian leaders.
"The election of the president will take place on Friday at 11:00 am (1000 GMT)," Daci told local media following the session.
The date for the election was pushed forward to Friday from next Monday following a request from Soren Jessen-Petersen, the head of the United Nations mission (UNMIK) that has run Kosovo since its 1998-1999 conflict.
Rugova's death from lung cancer at the age of 61 on January 21 left a political void in the province ahead of crucial face-to-face talks between the Albanian leaders and Serbia on Kosovo's future status.
Sejdiu, chosen as the candidate of Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) party last week, looks set to be elected to fill the position unopposed after winning approval from the United Nations and Western powers.
The main opposition Democratic Party of Kosovo (DPK) headed by former separatist Albanian guerrilla leader Hashim Thaci has not presented its own candidate for the position, appearing to have accepted the nomination of Sejdiu.
The post of president is largely ceremonial in Kosovo, but the position holds much symbolism for the province's ethnic Albanians who are seeking to break away from Serbia in UN-backed talks with Belgrade.
Sejdiu has served as the secretary-general of the LDK since it was established in 1989 and heads the party's parliamentary delegation.
"I will continue the vision of Rugova for the independence of Kosovo," Sejdiu said following his nomination.
Sejdiu, who is married and has three sons, originates from a village near the northern Kosovo town of Podujevo.
He has a doctorate in law, in which he lectured at the University of Pristina, the main town in the province, and speaks English and French, according to his official profile on the Kosovo parliament's website.
Sejdiu said in Pristina on Thursay that he wants Kosovo's independence to be internationally recognised, according to a statement from his office.
"Institutions and citizens of Kosovo are determined and engaged to build up a democratic society and create an independent state," Sejdiu was quoted as saying in the statement.
Legally still a province of Serbia, Kosovo has been run by the United Nations and NATO since the alliance's air war in 1999 drove out forces loyal to former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic over a crackdown against separatist Albanian rebels.
Kosovo's future status talks began tentatively in November last year, with the ethnic Albanian majority in the province seeking independence from Serbia, a demand strongly opposed by Belgrade and Serbs.
It is not yet clear if Sejdiu will also head the ethnic Albanian negotiating team for the talks, as Rugova was scheduled to do before his death forced the postponement of the talks.
© AFP Agence France-Presse