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Kosovo's Parliament Elects Reformist Lawyer Osmani As President


Kosovo's Parliament Elects Reformist As New President
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Kosovo's Parliament Elects Reformist As New President

PRISTINA -- Kosovo's parliament has elected Vjosa Osmani, the candidate of the ruling Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) movement, as the country's new president.

With 71 votes, Osmani was elected on the third ballot. Eighty-two deputies participated in the voting, but 11 ballots were disqualified. Osmani's opponent, Nasuf Bejta, did not secure any votes.

Osmani, a 38-year-old reformist lawyer, has been rated Kosovo's most popular politician. She was backed by Prime Minister Albin Kurti and the leftist Vetevendosje movement.

"Today, Kosovo has once again elected a woman president," Osmani told the lawmakers after the vote.

"All young girls who may be watching us at this moment should always remember the following: Girls have their place wherever they want to be, wherever they dream of being, wherever they work hard to be…. Everything is possible and all your dreams can come true."

Shortly after the vote, U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett sent his congratulations.

"The U.S. remains committed to close partnership with the Republic of Kosovo to build a future of peace, justice, and prosperity for all citizens," he wrote on Twitter.

The election came one day after parliament failed to elect a president because it was unable to muster the 80 votes required to form a quorum. In two rounds of voting on April 3, 78 and 79 deputies participated.

If parliament had failed to elect a president by April 5, snap parliamentary elections would automatically have been called, potentially opening the door for Prime Minister Albin Kurti to increase his hold on the government.

Vetevendosje won 58 out of 120 seats in February's elections and formed a ruling coalition with nine members representing non-Serb ethnic minorities.

Ahead of parliament's adjournment late on April 3, Kurti and Osmani were able to cobble together the necessary majority as opposition and Serbian members boycotted the vote.

U.S. Ambassador Philip Kosnett urged all members of parliament to take responsibility and participate in the session.

"The U.S. Government position remains unchanged. We support an Assembly vote for President,” Kosnett said on Twitter. "We call on all members of the Assembly to fulfill their responsibilities to the people of Kosovo by participating in the vote to ensure a quorum."

The opposition last week accused Kurti of trying to stoke instability and provoke snap elections by submitting a surprise bill ahead of the presidential vote.

Vetevendosje on April 2 proposed fast-tracking a law through parliament that would allow Kosovars residing abroad to vote at embassies, potentially strengthening the party's power in future elections.

The bill angered opposition lawmakers who had been expecting to vote for a new president during that day's session. They narrowly defeated the fast-track proposal by just four votes but did not get around to voting for a president.

With reporting by Amra Zejneli and AFP

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