Thursday, March 19, 2020

Kosovo’s Crisis-Hit Govt Threatened with No-Confidence Vote


Xhorxhina Bami Pristina BIRN March 19, 2020

As Kosovo’s government tries to deal with the coronavirus crisis, one of the ruling coalition partners has threatened a vote of no confidence amid a row over whether a state of emergency should be imposed.

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti. Photo: EPA-EFE/ Valdrin Xhemaj

The leader of the junior partner in Kosovo’s coalition government, the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, said on Wednesday evening that he will file a motion for a no-confidence vote after one of the party’s ministers was sacked from the cabinet.

The threat came after Prime Minister Albin Kurti, from the main ruling Vetevendosje party, sacked Interior Minister Agim Veliu, an LDK politician, on Wednesday amid a disagreement over how to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

Kurti said that Veliu was dismissed because he had undermined the government by publicly supporting the idea of declaring a state of emergency, and because he had spread panic about the coronavirus epidemic.

The idea of imposing a state of emergency was proposed by Kurti’s political rival, President Hashim Thaci. If a state of emergency is declared, the government’s power shifts to Kosovo’s Security Council, which is chaired by Thaci.

Announcing that he would initiate a no-confidence vote, the LDK’s leader, Isa Mustafa, said that he cannot allow Kurti to “mock one of my ministers every day and then dismiss” them.

He accused Kurti of breaching the coalition agreement, which he said included assurances that no minister could be dismissed without prior consultation and the approval of LDK’s leadership.

He said however that the LDK will remain in government “until we get through this situation with the coronavirus”.

The no-confidence motion needs 40 signatures from MPs to be sent the Kosovo Assembly for a vote and 61 votes, in a 120-seat parlimant to pass. The LDK only has 28 lawmakers in the legislature.

Two prominent LDK politicians have indicated that they do not support the motion. Parliamentary speaker Vjosa Osmani told BIRN that she did not vote for the initiative at an LDK chairmanship meeting on Wednesday, while the Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment, Lumir Abdixhiku, said that he abstained.

Kurti on Wednesday defended his decision to sack Veliu, saying that it was absurd for the interior minister to call for a state of emergency while Kosovo’s police force, which is under his ministry’s control, is currently handling the situation very well.

He also said that Veliu could not claim that President Thaci was right to call for a state of emergency when there are only “20 people affected [by coronavirus infection], with no deaths”.

The LDK was already in dispute with its coalition partners from Vetevendosje over whether to immediately lift Kosovo’s 100 per cent import tariffs on Serbian goods.

The US has called for the tariffs to be removed immediately. The LDK agrees but Vetevendosje wants a more gradual lifting.

Kosovo’s coalition government has only been in office since early February. The country went for four months without an administration before that, after elections were held last October.

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