Kosovo’s new parliament starts, vote on new govt expected

International

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo’s newly-elected parliament held its first session Monday and is expected to nominate the country’s new prime minister.

The new parliament comes after the Feb. 14 election in which Albin Kurti’s left-wing Self-Determination Movement, or Vetevendosje!, won the most votes, but the party still needs the votes of non-Serb minority parties to create a new Cabinet. Vetevendosje! won 58 out of the parliament’s 120 seats.

After their swearing-in, the new lawmakers voted to elect the new speaker, Glauk Konjufca of Vetevendosje!, and his deputies.

Kosovo’s acting president will send to parliament a letter of nomination for Kurti, who Vetevendosje! has designated as prime minister. The parliament may convene again in the afternoon.

“I expect him (Konjufca) to send to me the invitation on forming the government,” Kurti told journalists. “I know the names of the new ministers and soon you will be aware too.”

Konjufca said he didn’t “exclude a new session after some hours.”

Reviving Kosovo’s economy, including beating back unemployment, as well as managing the coronavirus pandemic, organized crime and corruption remain top challenges for the new government.

Another priority is to resume negotiations to normalize ties with neighboring Serbia, which stalled again last year and don’t figure high on Kurti’s agenda despite international pressure.

A simple majority is needed to elect Kurti’s government, compared with the much harder task of electing the new president, which should happen by May and requires a two-thirds majority.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a decade after a brutal 1998-1999 war between separatist ethnic Albanian rebels and Serb forces, which ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign that drove Serb troops out and a peacekeeping force moved in.

Most Western nations have recognized Kosovo’s sovereignty, but Serbia and its allies Russia and China don’t. Tensions over Kosovo remain a source of volatility in the Balkans.

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Llazar Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.

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