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Kosovo: Parliamentary Drama and Finally a New President

Vjosa Osmani (Guxo-*), the newly elected President of Kosovo // Photo: Public domain

Two days ago, on April 4th, Vjosa Osmani (Guxo-*) was elected the 5th President of Kosovo in its 13 years of declared—but not universally recognised—independence.1

The road to her election has been quite a tumultuous one, but was in a sense expected. On February 14th, Kosovo held a snap parliamentary election that saw centre-left SELF-DETERMINATION Movement! (Lëvizja VETËVENDOSJE!, LVV~S&D) capitalise on a year of fighting against all the other major parties. Following a constitutional crisis and an eventful period of Kosovar politics, though there might not be an uneventful one, LVV’s leader Albin Kurti was elected Prime Minister with the support of non-Serb minority parties and then Acting President Vjosa Osmani, who actually ran on the top of the LVV list when Kurti couldn’t due to a ruling of the constitutional court.

With Kurti’s significant victory in the parliamentary election, the election of Vjosa Osmani as President seemed to be the only remaining checkpoint in LVV’s rise to power. However, the path to her election was narrow. To be elected President of Kosovo, one needs the support of 80 out of the 120 members of parliament in the first round of voting. If this is not reached, the same majority is needed in the second round. In case the necessary 2/3 majority is not reached yet again, a simple majority is needed in the third round. And finally if no majority is reached in the third round, snap parliamentary elections would have to be called.

In addition, according to a ruling by the constitutional court, at least 80 of the parliament’s 120 MPs must be present for the vote to be valid. A failed vote leads to—you guessed it—a snap election.

This meant that, with 58 LVV MPs and a few MPs from non-Serb minority parties, Osmani had the support to be elected President in the third round. But the parties of the opposition could render the vote invalid and cause a snap election by boycotting the proceedings, which is what national-conservative Democratic Party of Kosovo (Partia Demokratike e Kosovës, PDK-ECR), centre-right Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (Aleanca për Ardhmërinë e Kosovës, AAK-*) and right-wing Serb-minority party Serb List (Lista Serbe, LS~EPP) did.

Following days of negotiations with the centre-right Democratic League of Kosovo (Lidhja Demokratike e Kosovës, LDK-EPP), Osmani’s former party, it seemed that LDK’s MPs would be present in order to secure the necessary quorum. That clear path to a successful election was muddied when on Friday LVV’s parliamentary group tabled a motion to amend the electoral law in an attempt to enable Kosovo’s diaspora to vote on embassies and not only by post, potentially strengthening the party’s position in future elections. This vote for the electoral reform did not pass in parliament, but did result in angering the opposition and rendering LDK’s commitment to be present for the presidential vote to be wavering at best.

Indeed, LVV’s gamble with proposing electoral reform on the same day as the presidential election did not pay off and the vote on the new president was postponed from Friday to Saturday with no assurance that the LDK would be present and a quorum would be reached.

On Saturday, LDK’s MPs did show up in Parliament, resulting in 82 MPs in total being present, thus providing a quorum. However when the vote for the first round started to take place, three LDK MPs, including former Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti (2020-21), did not participate, but chose to remain in the hall. That created a sort of a Schrödinger’s Quorum, since there was a quorum, until the ballot box was opened and the votes were counted! After an attempt to repeat the first round, the vote was postponed once again to Sunday.

On Sunday, with the presence of another two MPs of the non-Serb minority parties and a few rogue MPs, the vote finally took place as intended.2

In the first round, 84 deputies were present and 81 voted with 69 voting for Vjosa Osmani and 12 voting to abstain. In the second round, 82 deputies voted with 67 voting for Osmani, 11 voting to abstain and 4 voting for Nasuf Bejta, a candidate that was put forward by LVV and Guxo simply for procedural reasons. Finally, in the third round, 82 deputies voted once again with 71 voting for Osmani and 11 voting to abstain, resulting in Osmani’s election as Kosovo’s 5th President.3

Complicated proceedings aside, 2021 has seen Kurti’s LVV with Osmani’s Guxo manage to reach over 50% in the parliamentary elections and now hold the positions of Prime Minister, Chairman of the Assembly and President of Kosovo. LVV’s dominance and especially its ability to govern without being dependent on the Serb-minority party LS opens a new chapter in Kosovo’s history. Domestic reforms against corruption are the declared priority of the new government, but at the same time this new era could potentially mean a tougher stance against Serbia and even closer relations with neighbouring Albania.

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  1. Kosovar independence is recognised by 98/193 UN Member States.
  2. Albena Reshitaj, an MP elected with AAK, and Adelina Grainca, an MP elected with PDK, who has now joined LVV.
  3. With 71 votes Osmani ties former President Hashim Thaçi in second place for most votes received in Kosovo’s short history. First is Kosovo’s first female president, Atifete Jahjaga, who had received 81 votes, back in 2011

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