Kosovo faces first major political test since independence

The Kosovo parliament overwhelming passed a vote of no confidence in the government today, setting the stage for early elections and political realignment.

Hazir Reka/Reuters
Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci takes his seat in the Kosovo Parliament, on Nov. 2. Kosovo's parliament backed a no confidence motion on Tuesday, bringing down the government that led the country to independence from Serbia in 2008 and triggering early elections within the next 45 days.

Kosovo is faced with having to rebuild its young government after the nation's ruling coalition today received a "no confidence” vote. That triggers snap elections in December, the first since the Balkan state declared independence in 2008.

The Kosovo assembly voted to disband itself in a 66-1 vote.

The crisis was set in motion when Prime Minister Hashim Thaci’s main coalition partner, former President Fatmir Sejdiu's Democratic League of Kosovo, or LDK, quit the 120-member assembly. Mr. Sejdiu left office Sept. 27 after a constitutional court, which included US, Bulgarian, and Portuguese judges, voted that he could not simultaneously serve as his political party's president. His party did not show up to vote today.

While Kosovo politics is set for realignment the society and the country, which weathered a human exodus in 1999 under Serbian guns, and was in political limbo for nearly a decade, has seen far worse.

“People keep using the word ‘crisis’ because it is the first time this has happened in Kosovo,” says a veteran international agency official who asked not to be named. “This is not unusual for a coalition government; it just hasn’t happened before here. If anything, I expect Thaci to come out stronger.”

A number of new parties are expected to join the elections scheduled for Dec. 12 and will challenge an electorate that has soured on government corruption.

“This is the end of a discredited government that has literally brought itself down with a lack of proper development for the country,” says Ilir Deda, head of the New Spirit Party. “We now find a climate for change has been created, and the December vote … will show where we are headed for the next decade.”

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 under considerable controversy and strain – and Serbia has steadily challenged that declaration even as the US and 22 of 27 EU members have recognized it.

Last summer the World Court at the Hague said Kosovo’s declaration was legal; and in September Serbia agreed to stop contesting Kosovo’s status at the United Nations. (Last week the EU in Brussels signaled the first clear “green light” for Serbia’s accession to the EU.)

Following the constitutional court ruling on Sedjiu, Kosovars expected elections Feb. 13, to be attended by international and EU observers. But when Sedjiu’s party separated from the coalition, Thaci made the decision, lawful under the Constitution, to hold snap elections and avoid a prolonged period of instability. The December polls will be held with few international observers.

“The president’s party had seven members of government, including six ministers and a deputy prime minister,” says a local columnist in Pristina. “So when the LDK left, we knew elections would come quickly. They shorten the time of crisis.”

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