PRISTINA -- The opposition in Kosovo has accused Prime Minister Albin Kurti of trying to stoke instability and provoke snap elections by submitting a surprise bill ahead of a presidential vote.
Kurti’s party Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) 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. They narrowly defeated the fast-track proposal by just four votes, but did not get around to voting for a president.
If parliament does not elect a president by April 5, snap parliamentary elections will automatically be called, potentially opening the door for Kurti to increase his hold over the government.
Vetevendosje, a leftist-nationalist party, won 58 out of 120 seats in February’s elections, just three short of the majority needed to rule without a coalition.
Vetevendosje formed a ruling coalition with nine parliamentarians representing non-Serb ethnic minorities.
Easing the ability for Kosovars abroad to vote would benefit Vetevendosje, which won 75 percent of the ballots cast by the diaspora in the February elections.
Kosovars living abroad can only vote by mail, but the process has had complications, reducing actual participation, analysts say.
During past elections, many Kosovars living abroad failed to receive their mail-in ballots. Others received them too late to vote while some mailed-in ballots got lost, the analysts say.
Kosovars abroad accounted for 7 percent of the February vote.
Lumir Abdixhiku, the leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), the former ruling party, lashed out at Kurti for the last-minute election bill.
“Kurti either does not want to resolve this issue [of the presidency] or wants to create political instability to hide his inability to solve major problems,” Abdixhiku told reporters.
LDK had been expected to back Vetevendosje's presidential choice, but that is now uncertain, raising the specter of a snap election.