Kosovo govt toppled by no-confidence vote amid COVID-19 fight

Elias Hubbard
March 26, 2020

The Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti lost a no-confidence vote late Wednesday over his response to the coronavirus pandemic, toppling his government.

More than 80 MPs in the 120-member assembly backed the vote after almost 12 hours of debate.

Last week Kurti fired then-interior minister Agim Veliu of the centre-right Democratic League of Kosovo, or LDK, for not being in line with government policy on containing the coronavirus.

The next step is uncertain. In normal circumstances, a snap election could be held, but that is unlikely amid the battle to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

"The prime minister chose to give an end to the deal with the LDK when he discharged a minister without first consulting with the partner", said Arben Gashi, head of LDK's parliamentary group.

The LDK announced their move after Mr Kurti sacked one of their ministers last week, a final straw following weeks of concern that he was jeopardising Kosovo's relationship with the USA, its most important ally.

Kosovo has reported 71 coronavirus cases. One person died after contracting the respiratory disease.

The removal of the interior minister followed other disagreements, notably on whether a tariff of 100% on goods produced in Balkan rival Serbia should be abolished.

Serbia still refuses to recognise the independence declared by Kosovo, a former province who broke away in a 1998-99 war.

Even after the United States suspended some US$50 million (S$72.41 million) in economic aid in anger, Mr Kurti has agreed only to gradually lift measure, and has made clear he doesn't want Mr Thaci in charge of talks with Serbia.

Kurti said the reason behind his government's dismissal was to remove an obstacle to allowing Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, to swap territories as part of the final deal between Pristina and Belgrade.

In 2018, Thaci and Vucic signaled that they might agree to a land swap to resolve territorial claims the two countries have against each other, but both faced strong opposition to the idea domestically and overseas.

Following snap elections on October 6, the coalition government, which was formed by the Self-Determination Party and the Democratic League of Kosovo, came to power about four months later after receiving a vote of confidence in parliament.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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