Kosovan opposition files no-confidence motion against government

Kosovan opposition files no-confidence motion against government
By Dimitar Koychev in Sofia May 7, 2017

Kosovan opposition parties have launched a no-confidence motion against the government of Prime Minister Isa Mustafa. The 120-seat parliament will debate and vote on the motion on May 10, the parliament said in a statement.

In order to succeed, the motion has to be backed by 61 votes in the parliament. The ruling coalition comprises the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and its partner, Mustafa’s Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK). The PDK and LDK have 36 and 33 MPs respectively. However, the two parties’ majority is less certain than a simple summing would suggest, as the no-confidence motion was signed by four PDK lawmakers, as reported by BIRN.

The initiative collected more than 42 signatures overall, and besides opposition MPs, the signatories also included some ethnic minority lawmakers. A Reuters source said that a snap vote is likely to be held in June, a year early.

PDK leader Kadri Veseli, who is also parliament speaker, was quoted by Reuters as saying, "The situation in Kosovo is not good, I am not happy, people are not happy." He added he would discuss the motion with the prime minister.

The primary cause of the confidence vote is an agreement with Montenegro concerning the demarcation of the border between the two countries.

Kosovo is in a deep political crisis, as a result of the deal with Montenegro and a second agreement also reached by the current government in August 2015. The second deal was agreed with Serbia and envisages the creation of an Association/Community of Serb majority municipalities in Kosovo.

The ratification of the border agreement is also the sole unfulfilled requirement before the EU lifts its visa requirement for the people of Kosovo. However, Kosovo’s three main opposition parties strongly oppose the move.

Vetevendosje (Self-Determination), the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) and Initiative for Kosovo (Nisma), as well as border region residents, allege that the deal deprives Kosovo of several thousand hectares of land. Since the signing of the deal, the opposition has released tear gas in the parliament on many occasions and has also held street protests, some of which were marred by violence.

Mustafa has said he would call an early general election if the border deal is not ratified soon.

Ratification requires a two-thirds majority, and even within the PDK and the LDK support for ratification is not unanimous. As of May 3, the 11 ethnic Serbian representatives in the parliament have not clarified if they would support ratification either.

In a statement issued following its press conference on May 7, Vetevendosje made a raft of accusations against the government, saying it “failed to address the core issues of citizens and has caused colossal damage at the expense of the republic … The government has created deep public distrust.”

In addition to the agreements with Montenegro and Serbia - which the party described as “two destructive projects for the future of Kosovo” - it claimed the government had failed to fulfil its promises on job creation, and that it was failing to combat corruption and using the police “to persecute … the opposition”.

Meanwhile, Nisma accused Mustafa of hiding behind a deal that even his own party’s MPs did not support. “Your days are numbered,” the party told Mustafa in the statement posted on Facebook, and “it’s time for you to accept defeat.”· 

However, at an LDK rally marking the party’s 27th anniversary on May 7, Mustafa told party supporters that his government "worked very hard and we have major results in the fight against corruption and crime”. At a separate event, the prime minister stressed the progress made in economic development. 

Last September, Mustafa withdrew the ratification of the border agreement from the parliament’s agenda, as he assessed that the conditions for the vote were not favourable. However, in recent weeks there has been mounting international pressure for ratifying the agreement. The EU turned down a proposal from Mustafa for conditional visa liberalisation in April. 

Aside from the two agreements, Vetevendosje is also putting the government under pressure over the death in police custody of one of its supporters. Astrit Dehari died in unclear circumstances in November 2016, after being detained on suspicion of planning an attack on the parliament using rocket-propelled grenades. The attack took place at a time of intense debate between the government and opposition over the border deal. 

The PDK-LDK coalition was formed in December 2014, six months after the June general election, and following intense and often acrimonious political manoeuvring. The three parties currently in opposition, together with the LDK, initially tried to form a government and force out the PDK - which has been in power since Kosovo gained its independence from Serbia in 2008. 

However, this was repeatedly blocked by the PDK, which eventually struck a coalition deal with the LDK. Under the agreement between the two parties, Mustafa became prime minister while his predecessor, PDK leader Hashim Thaci, became president when the incumbent Atifete Jahjaga’s term ended in 2016. Recently, however, there have been frequent rumours of tensions within the coalition.