Crisis-hit Kosovo disbands parliament

New election likely within six weeks but no single political grouping is expected to win a clear majority.

    Kosovo politicians take a selfie after voting to dissolve parliament on Thursday [Laura Hasani/Reuters]
    Kosovo politicians take a selfie after voting to dissolve parliament on Thursday [Laura Hasani/Reuters]

    Kosovo's parliament has been dissolved, paving the way for the country's president to call an early general election.

    The 120-seat legislature held an extraordinary session on Thursday, deciding by 89 votes in favour to end the parliamentary term. There was one vote against and two people abstained.

    In July, Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj resigned after it emerged a Hague-based court investigating crimes against ethnic Serbs during and after the country's 1998-99 war wanted to question him. He was a commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army during the war.

    While he denies any wrongdoing and says he is ready to face any accusations, Haradinaj told reporters "I used my right to remain silent," after prosecutors interrogated him on July 24.

    The war in Kosovo left more than 13,000 people dead, including more than 11,000 from Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority, 2,000 Serbs and hundreds of Roma.

    Haradinaj resigned from the role of prime minister once before in 2005, when he was indicted by the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal for former Yugoslavia. He was tried and acquitted twice by that court.

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    Since his resignation last month, Haradinaj has acted in a caretaker prime minister role.

    New elections

    President Hashim Thaci is expected to quickly decide on the election date, to take place within the next six weeks, so that the country has "a functional and accountable government that copes with the challenges of the state and the society" as soon as possible.

    No single political grouping is expected to have a clear majority in the new parliament. Delicate alliances have always required the votes of the Serbs and other minorities, which have 20 seats, to form the Cabinet.

    A former Serbian province, Kosovo, with a 90 percent ethnic Albanian population, declared independence in 2008, a move that Belgrade and its ally Russia do not recognise.

    The US and more than 100 countries recognise Kosovo's statehood, which followed a NATO intervention in 1999 that stopped a Serbian crackdown against Kosovo Albanian separatists.

    Talks between Kosovo and Serbia remain the main challenge for any cabinet. They stalled last year over Kosovo's decision to impose a 100 percent tax on goods from Serbia.

    Western powers have called on the two countries to restart their European Union-sponsored talks aimed at normalising ties, and to reach a "legally binding agreement that contributes to regional stability", urging Kosovo to lift or suspend the tariffs and Serbia to suspend "the de-recognition campaign against Kosovo".

    "Our top national priority will remain joining the European Union, and the special relationship with the US," Kadri Veseli, the parliament speaker and also leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, told the Associated Press news agency.

    "We are a Western country, we will work very hard in order to transform our economy, fight against corruption, and Kosovo will join the EU." 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies