Kosovo faces constitutional crisis

By bne IntelliNews July 21, 2014

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Kosovo is facing political logjam in the wake of last month's elections, as the incumbent DPK refuses to recognize a block formed by the opposition and insists it remains the "winner" of the vote.

The Democratic Party of Kosovo (DPK) appealed on July 18 to the country's constitutional court after rival parties came together to block its proposal to appoint outgoing Prime Minister Hashim Thaci as speaker. The DPK asked the court to suspend the appointment of Isa Mustafa, claiming opposition MPs violated parliamentary procedures and the constitution as they voted for the alternative candidate on July 17.

That was the opening day of parliament following the June 8 vote, but over later Kosovo still does not have a new government. While the DPK is the largest party represented in the parliament, it falls short of a majority. That opened the way for the main opposition parties to vote in their choice of speaker. DPK MPs walked out of the parliament session in protest.

It's a turnaround in fortunes for Thaci's former ruling party. In the immediate wake of the snap election last month, the DPK appeared to be about to form a new government. The departing PM claimed victory when the party took over 30% of the vote, compared to 26% for main rival, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK). The DPK has cobbled together 37 seats. 

However, opposition parties have refused to govern with Thaci, accusing his administration of corruption, nepotism and failure to press economic reform. LDK spent the two days following the vote putting together a deal two other opposition parties - former DPK coalition partner Alliance for the Future of Kosovo and the brand new Initiative for Kosovo Nisma. Together with a handful of MPs representing ethnic minorities, the opposition now holds 67 of the 120 seats in parliament. 

The three parties are also hoping to bring on board a fourth party, Vetevendosje, which would only increase an already solid majority. However, Thaci insists that since his party came top in the polls, only the DPK has the right to form a government. The fight stemming from the July 17 vote reflects that stance. 

According to regulations, the largest parliamentary group has the right to propose the candidate for the post of speaker. However, the PDK disputes the legality of the AAK-LDK-Nisma bloc, which would leave itself as the largest parliamentary group.

The stand off saw President Atifete Jahjaga on July 21 put back her plans to nominate a prime minister. She had previously announced that she would name a candidate following the first session of parliament. Arber Vllahiu, a media advisor to Jahjaga, told BIRN the president is now waiting for matters to clarify.

A lengthy power struggle would clearly be a setback for Kosovo, which remains one of the poorest country's in Europe, with high levels of corruption and organised crime. The average monthly salary is just €350, and an estimated 34% of the population lives below the poverty line on under €45 a month, according to the World Bank. Unemployment is at an extremely high 45%, with youth unemployment as high as 70%.

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