PRISTINA -- Kosovo’s parliament has ousted the country's government in a no-confidence vote, throwing the Western Balkan nation into political turmoil even as it struggles along with the rest of the world to battle the coronavirus epidemic.
The parliament late on March 25 voted 82 in favor of the no-confidence motion, 32 against, with one abstention.
The motion was called by the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) -- a partner in Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s government.
Even though a member of Kosovo’s ruling coalition, the LDK has opposed many of the prime minister's polices, including matters regarding the fight against the coronavirus and the imposition of 100 percent tariffs on goods from neighboring Serbia.
The future remains uncertain. In normal circumstances, a snap election could be held, but that is unlikely amid the battle to stem the spread of the COVID-19 illness.
For now, according to the country’s constitution, Kurti is expected to stay as caretaker prime minister until his leftist-nationalist Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) party puts forward a candidate for premier as required in the next 15 days.
But the toppling of the government leaves the small Western-backed nation without strong leadership as it struggles to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.
Authorities have confirmed more than 60 coronavirus infections and at least one death, that of an 82-year-old man with underlying health issues.
Tensions within the Vetevendosje–LDK coalition intensified after Kurti on March 18 fired Interior Minister Agim Veliu, who supported President Hashim Thaci’s call to declare a state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic.
Kurti rejected the call, saying it would cause “unnecessary panic.” The move would also have given the president -- a rival of Kurti’s -- additional powers. The presidency is mainly a ceremonial position but does hold some official responsibilities.
The LDK has also opposed the imposition of 100 percent tariffs on Serbian imports, a move supported by Kurti but which has angered the United States and European Union.
Pristina imposed 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods and services in November 2018 in response to Belgrade's continued lobbying for countries to reverse their recognition of Kosovo, a former province of Serbia’s.
Prior to the no-confidence vote, U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Philip S. Kosnett said he was pleased that parliament was holding a session on the motion.
Kosnett said on Twitter March 24 that he told Kurti it was important for the assembly and all Kosovo's institutions to respect the constitution.
Meanwhile, Germany’s ambassador to Kosovo voiced the concerns of Germany and France in saying the two countries are at the side of Kosovo’s people in crisis.
Christian Heldt said on Twitter on March 24 that the LDK should reconsider the call for the no-confidence vote to maintain a trusted and stable government to face Kosovo’s challenges.