June 26, 2014 / 3:26 PM / 4 years ago

Kosovo takes first step to resolve constitutional crisis, form government

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Electoral authorities in Kosovo confirmed the results of a June election on Thursday, setting the young Balkan country a deadline to resolve its first constitutional crisis before it can form a new government.

If no one challenges the election results within 24 hours, parliament will have 30 days to convene.

The prime minister-designate will then have 15 days to form a government that has the backing of a majority of deputies.

But this is where the problem lies: President Atifete Jahjaga has asked the Constitutional Court to rule on whom she should hand the mandate to form a government to first, and what happens if that candidate fails to do so.

Outgoing Prime Minister Hashim Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) came first in the election with 30 percent of the vote, or 37 seats in the 120-seat parliament.

But opposition parties have joined forces since the election in a bid to outmaneouvre him, and both sides are arguing over how to interpret the constitution.

Thaci says only the PDK has the right to form a government. The opposition say only they have the votes.

The opposition Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) came second with 30 seats; third was Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) with 16 seats; fourth was the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) with 11. The fifth party, NISMA, will have six seats, and ethnic minorities will take 20 seats.

The LDK, AAK and NISMA have agreed to join forces to thwart the PDK, and Vetevendosje says it will support their move, potentially creating a majority bloc in parliament.

It is unclear when the constitutional court will issue its ruling, however, in a political row unprecedented since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

“If this blockage continues, the chances of a snap election are high,” said Fisnik Korenica of the Legal and Political Studies research group.

The opposition bloc says its candidate for prime minister is AAK leader Ramush Haradinaj, a former guerrilla commander twice indicted and twice cleared of war crimes at the Hague-based United Nations tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Matt Robinson and Hugh Lawson

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