The Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), the country’s second largest party, has stated that they have the votes to form a new government.
Following a meeting with party MPs, the head of the LDK parliamentary group Arben Gashi said they have the support of at least 64 MPs of the 120-seat Kosovo parliament. Once they have formalized coalition agreements in the coming days, the LDK will request the parliament to hold an extraordinary session to vote for the new government.
LDK has decided to nominate Avdullah Hoti for Prime Minister, after President Hashim Thaçi announced he had officially requested LDK to try to form a new government.
Does the LDK have the numbers for a new government?
Technically speaking, that will depend on negotiations between potential allies during this week. However, there’s little chance for LDK to fail in securing the needed 61 votes in parliament.
With no coalition agreements signed, the number of votes in support of a Hoti government is unclear though.
LDK has 28 MPs, three of which, including the most voted LDK MP Vjosa Osmani voted against their party when they ousted the Kurti Government.
Former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj’s party AAK has 13 MPs and they have informally agreed with LDK to form a coalition.
NISMA party has also confirmed participation in the coalition with its 4 MPs.
Businessman Behgjet Pacolli’s party AKR hasn’t decided yet whether its 2 MPs will support the LDK-led government.
Serbian List has informally agreed to give its 10 votes and be part of the government.
Parties of other 9 minority MPs have said they want a new government instead of elections but it’s not clear if they will all vote for it.
To round the numbers up: LDK 28, AAK 13, Nisma 4, Serbian List 10, other minorities 9, and AKR 2, a total of 66 votes.
PDK (24MPs) has stated it will remain in opposition, and under normal circumstances it should not support the new government.
The largest party LVV has 30 MPs, including a new MP from the minority party of Egyptians.
In a possible best case scenario, the Hoti government would get 66 votes, more than the 61 needed.
However, LDK’s Gashi said today that they have secured 64 votes, which probably means that they have not counted 2 possible votes from Pacolli’s party. This would also suggest that the 3 LDK MPs who voted against ousting the Kurti Government will now vote for the new government.
Other scenarios may vary depending on political developments in the country, and Avdullah Hoti’s negotiating skills.
Who is Avdullah Hoti, the candidate for Prime Minister?
LDK run in the last October 2019 elections with Vjosa Osmani as candidate for prime minister. A young and fresh politician, Osmani got a staggering 176,016 votes, only about eight thousand votes short of the most voted politician in Kosovo, Albin Kurti.
Different from Osmani, Hoti is a confidant of LDK leader Isa Mustafa and the party’s old guard. Hoti managed to get 26,094 votes in the last elections, in clear contrast not only to Osmani but also to other young LDK politicians.
Mustafa made him Deputy Prime Minister in the Kurti Government. Hoti was dismissed from his post when he voted to topple his own government alongside all but three LDK MPs.
He has previously served as Minister of Finance under the Mustafa Government in 2014-2017.
Hoti is expected to immediately drop reciprocity measures against Serbia, in compliance with the U.S. envoy Richard Grenell’s request. Next steps in the potential restart of the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue are not clear.
Will the new government be able to start work immediately?
When asked by journalists whether he would leave office if Parliament voted for a new government, Acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti of LVV avoided a direct reply. He stated that any new government without elections would be unconstitutional.
LVV is expected to take the matter to the Constitutional Court. The ruling might take some time before the new government starts work, even if it’s voted in parliament. Kurti would hardly leave office before a Constitutional Court decision against him.
A ruling against the process followed by President Hashim Thaçi would mean that the new government never takes power. Instead, depending of the ruling, either Kurti stays as acting Prime Minister until snap elections or he is asked to form a new government, thus starting the process from the beginning, but this time hopefully with clear deadlines.
President Hashim Thaçi’s controversial push for a new government
Thaçi’s request for LDK to form a new government came after he decided to sidestep the largest party LVV from the process. He interpreted LVV’s lack of decision for three weeks on a nominee for prime minister as refusal by the party to take up the task, despite LVV’s repeated notifications that this was not the case.
The President then held consultations with all political parties to ask their opinion on whether the country should go for new elections or new government, after the Kurti Government was ousted on March 25. All parties, except for LVV, stated they want to avoid new elections. The president argued that based on the majority’s will, he would ask LDK to form the new government.
Acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s party LVV considers the President’s consultations with parliamentary parties to be unconstitutional. With the government ousted, they claim that Thaçi’s only right and duty was to call new elections, to be held after the Covid-19 pandemic.
The LVV has pressured the President and LDK to release Thaçi’s request to the party to nominate a prime minister, so they can see the legal basis he has relied upon and prepare their case for the Constitutional Court.
The constitutional basis for the President’s actions – consulting with political parties, and not waiting for LVV to nominate a new prime minister, or refuse to do so – remains unclear. Neither the President nor the LDK have responded to LVV’s request and the document has not been released to the public. In contrast to this, Thaçi has repeatedly published several similar requests to LVV in the recent weeks even before their reached the recipient.
It will finally be up to the Constitutional Court to decide whether the president’s push for a new government was constitutional. However, before that happens, the political crisis in the country risks deepening amidst the ongoing pandemic.
Many in Kosovo do not trust that the Constitutional Court will be able to deliver an independent ruling. They think that the U.S. administration’s pressure against the Kurti Government could have its effect on the judges’ decision, and that some of them are under Thaçi’s influence.
LVV supporters have been eager to protests for some time now against what they essentially consider a coup against a democratically elected government.
If a new government is formed and the process is confirmed by the Constitutional Court, it appears that besides the dialogue with Serbia, Hoti and Thaçi will have to deal with strong protests demanding early elections in the country.
Attempts to contain protests through measures of a potential state of emergency justified by the pandemic, and while the controversial dialogue with Serbia will be ongoing, could worsen the political situation in Kosovo to dangerous levels.