Kosovo highest court clears the way for new government vote

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo’s Constitutional Court ruled late on Thursday that a new government can be formed without holding a snap election, a decision opposed by the caretaker prime minister’s party, which has vowed street protests.

Albin Kurti’s government was dismissed on March 25 after less than two months in office, following disagreements with its main partner, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and removal of tariffs on Serbian goods.

“The biggest political party does not have the exclusivity to propose the candidate of the prime minister to form the government,” the court said in its verdict.

Kurti backed a snap election after seeing that other parties rallied together with his former coalition partner the LDK to form a new government. His party said it will organise protests in coming days.

The task to form the government is now given to LDK nominee Avdullah Hoti, former deputy prime minister and a past finance minister.

Hoti has promised he will return to negotiations with Serbia to normalise ties under EU and United States mediation. Such talks were halted in 2018 when a previous government introduced a 100% tariffs on goods produced in Serbia.

The move has angered the European Union and the United States, which backed Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 after wars tore apart the former Yugoslavia.

Kurti has said the change of the government is fuelled by President Hashim Thaci, who Kurti said agreed to a land swap with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, under a plan for Serbia to recognise Kosovo, which would help Belgrade join the European Union. Thaci has denied the accusations.

“We ask all leaders to work together for an orderly transition in the interest of peace, stability, and prosperity for all the people of Kosovo,” the US embassy in Pristina said in a statement.

Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by David Gregorio