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Kosovo Parliament Elects Albin Kurti as Prime Minister




Prime Minister Albin Kurti, presenting his governing program to MPs in Pristina, March 22, 2021. Photo: BIRN / Urim Krasniqi

Six weeks after the snap elections, Kosovo’s parliament on Monday voted for Albin Kurti as prime minister for the second time in 13 months, after a lengthy parliamentary debate.

About 67 of the 120 deputies in parliament supported Kurtis’ candidacy while 30 voted against.

Kurti was mandated to form the government Monday by his closest aide in his Vetëvendosje party, Glauk Konjufca, hours after the latter was elected as the new chairman.

According to the constitution, the prime minister must be mandated by the president, but when Konjufca was elected president, he was automatically installed as acting president, replacing Vjosa Osmani in that post.

Former President Hashim Thaçi was forced to resign in November 2020 when The Hague-based Kosovo Specialized Chambers indicted him for war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 1998-99 Kosovo war.

Osmani was elected President on February 3, 2020, when Kurti’s first government, a coalition was voted between Vetëvendosje and the former Osmanis party, the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK.

She was Kosovo’s interim president for about five months after Thaci resigned in early November 2020 to face war crimes charges in The Hague.

The challenges before this government are new and old, but they are many. The pandemic remains the biggest challenge, Kurti said, presenting his cabinet and his governing program to parliament.

From today, we will begin our journey to minimize inequalities and increase opportunities for all. It will be a long and arduous journey, but together we will achieve the desired goal, he added.

Speaking of the EU-facilitated dialogue with Serbia, Kurti rejected new compromises as part of the process.

Composition of the new government of Kosovo. Graphics: BIRN / Granit Mavriqi

Compromises that have been sought and have been harmful have been made through the Ahtisaari package as a price paid for [2008] “the declaration of independence,” he recalled.

“No further compromise can and will be made. This should be stated loudly and clearly by all of us, said Kurti.

Opposition parties have stated they will not run in the by-elections, and the former leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, Enver Hoxhaj, has called it a “wish list”.

I did not see concrete plans for when [COVID] vaccines could be provided, I did not hear any strong economic policy, I did not see education as an individual and collective development project and I did not see foreign policy as a strategic orientation, said Hoxhaj.

The Curtis cabinet will have three Deputy Prime Ministers and 15 ministers.

His cabinet was not backed by the Srpska Lista, Kosovo’s main Serb party, which sought two ministerial posts in the cabinet, instead of one, as Kurti introduced.

The head of the Srpska Listas parliamentary group, Igor Simic, said they would take the case to the Constitutional Court.

Unlike previous governments in Kosovo, Kurti managed to form a government without having to include any other Kosovo Albanian party as his Vetëvendosje party won the February 14th snap elections by a landslide, giving it 58 out of 120 seats in parliament.

He needed only three more votes to win a 61-seat majority and form a government, and he found them through non-Albanian representatives in parliament.

Kosovo held early elections after the Constitutional Court ruled in December 2020 that the government led by the opposition Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, was now illegal because it was voted with an invalid ballot by an MP who had been convicted of a crime three years earlier.

The same court decision also led to Kurti himself forbidden to run as an MP. However, as the Prime Minister of Kosovo is mandated by the winning party, in this case Vetëvendosje, he did not need to hold a seat in parliament.

Parliament has not yet voted on a new President because Thaci’s term ends in April and, according to the constitution, an Interim President can stay in office for up to six months. The new head of state must be voted in 30 days before the end of the current president’s term.

Osmani, whose new initiative Guxo (Dare) ran in the elections on a joint list with Vetëvendosje and was second on the list of candidates for MPs, seeks the post of President.

A two-thirds majority of MPs’ votes are needed in Kosovo to vote for the President, but so far Osmani, a close ally of Kurti, has struggled to get votes.

The interim leader of the PDK, Enver Hoxhaj, said that his party does not support Osman’s candidacy for president “.

Similarly, after a meeting with Kurti and Osmani last week, the head of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, Ramush Haradinaj, who had also sought the presidency, said it was the winner’s responsibility to secure votes for the president.

The new leader of the LDK, Lumir Abdixhiku, also said: We had a party president in Thaçi; “We do not want a party president again, the president must be neutral.”

PDK, LDK and AAK together have 32 seats in parliament, which means that if Osmani gets the ten votes of Lista Srpska, she can again become President and the institutional vacuum in Kosovo will end, for the time being.

According to the constitution, if a candidate for President does not receive two-thirds of the votes of the deputies in the first two ballots, a third ballot is held and the candidate needs only a minimum majority of all deputies. If the vote fails for the third time, parliament is dissolved and new elections are held within 45 days.

Experts told BIRN in early March, however, that Kosovo could not afford an early election, so they believe a quorum of lawmakers would elect Osman as the country’s second female president.

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