The confirmation of war crime charges against Hashim Thaci, and his successive resignation as the country’s president have raised questions regarding the stability of the government and election of a new president in Kosovo.
The presidential powers were transferred to the speaker of parliament on Thursday, after Thaci resigned and headed to The Hague. Vjosa Osmani will be the Acting President for a maximum of six months.
Whilst the Constitution does not literally foresee the resignation of the president, it stipulates the institutions and ways to mediate a crisis stemming from a situation in which the president is “temporarily unable to fulfill her/his responsibilities” (Art.90).
The end of Thaci’s mandate and the six months for the Acting President to exercise presidential powers both fall in April. During this time, the parliament should decide on a new president or new elections.
The Constitution demands the initiation of procedures to elect the president at least one month before the end of the incumbent’s term. Therefore, depending on the interpretation of whether Thaci has “resigned” or he is “temporarily absent”, the procedure should either start immediately or before March 2021.
The procedure starts with nominations for president, which require signatures of at least 30 MPs of the 120-seat Kosovo parliament. An MP can support only one candidate.
Once candidates are nominated, the new president should get two-thirds (80/120) of votes in parliament. If none of the candidates gets such support, a second round is held. In case of repeated lack of support by 80 deputies, the president is elected with a simple majority (61) in a third vote between the two candidates with the most votes in the second round (Art.86).
The Acting President has to call new elections within 45 days if the third round also fails to elect the new president.
The election of a new president in Kosovo this time will depend on whether political parties with at least 61 MPsaltogether will agree on a nomination.
The current governing coalition lost the simple majority of 61 deputies when MP Etem Arifi was sent to prison last month. It cannot elect the new president without expanding with more parties.
The leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), Ramush Haradinaj has put forward his candidacy for the president but so far has failed to get the support of coalition leader Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK).
One of the scenarios discussed in the public opinion in Kosovo suggests that the opposition Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) could join the coalition with its 24 MPs, and nominate a candidate from its ranks. However, the PDK has never confirmed it would join such a scenario. The question still hangs in the air now that its leader Kadri Veseli, and former leader Hashim Thaci have resigned from public offices, are both facing war crime charges in the Kosovo court in The Hague.
Another scenario could see a successful attempt by the opposition to vote out the current government. Opposition Vetevendosje (LVV) with its 31 MPs has so far been unable to secure 40 signatures needed for a no-confidence vote. However, technically speaking, the 55 votes of LVV and PDK may be not enough to topple the government, if the 6 MPs from the national minorities not aligned with the ruling coalition do not join them.
A last scenario would be the ruling coalition deciding to go to new elections by voting itself out through a vote of confidence, and snap elections declared by the Acting President.
Whatever the result of talks between political parties, within six months Kosovo should either elect a new president or declare snap elections.