Kosovo gets new government, ends political crisis

AFP , Tuesday 9 Dec 2014

Kosovo's lawmakers on Tuesday backed a new coalition government that will be led by veteran politician Isa Mustafa, ending a six-month political crisis in the former Serbian province.

The leaders of Kosovo's largest political parties Hashim Thaci of the Democractic Party of Kosovo, left, and Isa Mustafa of the Democratic League of Kosovo sign a coalition agreement to form the next government in Kosovo capital Pristina on Monday, Dec. 8, 2014. (Photo:AP)

"The parliament elected the new government of Kosovo with Isa Mustafa at its head," parliamentary speaker Kadri Veseli said.

A total of 73 lawmakers backed the new cabinet while 38 voted against it.

The election of Mustafa, a 63-year-old economist, followed a surprise deal struck on Monday between his party and that of outgoing prime minister Hashim Thaci. The agreement unblocked a political impasse that has plagued Kosovo since snap elections in June.

The government has eight ministers from Mustafa's centre-right Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and seven from Thaci's centre-left Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK).

Another two portfolios will be held by minor coalition parties, while Kosovo's minority ethnic Serbs have a deputy prime minister and two ministers.

Thaci, a former guerilla fighter who ruled Kosovo since it unilaterally proclaimed independence from Serbia in 2008, will be both a deputy PM and foreign minister.

Mustafa faces a tough task in fulfilling his pledge of turning around the economy of one of Europe's poorest regions.

A third of Kosovo's population of 1.7 million is unemployed and some 40 percent live in dire poverty.

Although Thaci's PDK came first in the June 8 vote, with only 37 seats in the 120-strong parliament it was unable to form a ruling coalition that backed him as prime minister.

The LDK, which won 30 seats, than formed a bloc with three other opposition parties aimed at blocking Thaci's third mandate and pledged to form their own coalition.

But a clause in the constitution stating that the election front-runner alone can nominate the speaker of parliament blocked the opposition from naming its own candidate and proceed with nomination for PM.

That triggered a political crisis as a government cannot be formed under Kosovo law until a speaker has been named.

So after a battle over several months, Mustafa eventually turned his back on his opposition allies and reached a deal with his main rival.

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