Kosovo postpones key vote, further delaying formation of government

By bne IntelliNews October 3, 2014

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A crucial parliamentary session at which Kosovan MPs were due to elect a new speaker has been postponed indefinitely while President Atifete Jahjaga attempts to broker a compromise between rival political blocs. A four-party coalition is poised to take control of the country, but the deadlock over the speaker appointment - an essential step before a new government can be formed - has so far prevented this. 

MPs were due to vote on the appointment of a speaker for the new parliament on October 2. However, on the day of the vote, Flora Brovina, who as the parliament’s most senior MP is acting speaker, wrote to her fellow deputies announcing that the session would be postponed. 

Brovina did not say when the session would be rescheduled, but after several failed attempts to appoint a speaker following the June 8 parliamentary elections, it seems it will be put on hold until Jahjaga manages to strike an agreement between outgoing Prime Minister Hashim Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and the four parties waiting in the wings to take over.  

On September 10, three parties that banded together immediately after the election - Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) and Initiative for Kosovo (Nisma) - signed a deal with the nationalist Vetevendosje party. This gave the four parties a secure majority in parliament, adding 16 seats to the bloc’s 47 seats.

This means that although outgoing Prime Minister Hashim Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) took the largest share of the vote on June 8, the party will be forced into opposition since it has been unable to form a new coalition. Thaci’s expected replacement as prime minister is AAK leader Ramush Haradinaj.

However, a dispute over the election of the parliament speaker, which must happen before a new government can be elected, has so far prevented Haradinaj taking power. On July 17, the parliament voted LDK leader Isa Mustafa in as speaker, but the following day the DPK appealed to the country's constitutional court, claiming that his appointment was “unconstitutional and unlawful”, and that as the largest party in parliament the PDK should have the right to nominate a speaker. On August 22, the court backed the DPK’s appeal, but without supporters in the parliament, the party is unable to get backing for its own choice of speaker. 

Jahjaga has held a series of meetings with Kosovo’s key political figures over the last few days. On October 1 and 2, the president’s office said she met with Thaci, Haradinaj, Mustafa and several others. 

“The president once again reiterated the fact that solutions must be found within the constitutional framework, in accordance with the decisions of the Constitutional Court and stressed that the parliamentary political party leaders must find the ways to discuss the solutions together for the constitution of the Assembly, which opens the way towards the creation of the institutions of the country,” said a statement on October 1 from the president’s office.

Ultimately, the only solution could be holding a new round of snap elections to resolve the impasse, but Jahjaga is hoping to avoid this by brokering a solution acceptable to rival party leaders. 

However, the constitutional dispute still raises concerns about stability within Kosovo as the country prepares for what should be its first democratic handover of power since its declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008. 

“In Kosovo there hasn’t been a democratic, peaceful turnover in government since independence,” pointed out Cvete Koneska, analyst at Control Risks group, in a recent interview with bne. “This would be the first time, so would set a precedent for future elections.” Failing to do so, “obviously ... has the potential to destabilise the country because these are some of the fundamental issues of statehood and democracy that need to be resolved,” she adds. 

The lengthy delay in appointing a new government has also put much needed action to stimulate the economy on hold. Kosovo remains one of the poorest countries 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 45%, with youth unemployment as high as 70%.

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