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Kosovo President Mandates Albin Kurti To Form Long-Delayed Government


Vetevendosje party leader Albin Kurti
Vetevendosje party leader Albin Kurti

Kosovar President Hashim Thaci has mandated Albin Kurti, the leader of Kosovo's Self-Determination Movement (Vetevendosje), to form a government.

Thaci's decision came shortly after Vetevendosje, the party that won the most votes in October parliamentary elections, sent a letter to the president on January 20 announcing that it has nominated Kurti for the post of prime minister.

According to the constitution, the prime minister designate has 15 days to put together a government.

Kurti's upstart Vetevendosje party emerged with a plurality of 26 percent in the October elections that upset entrenched allies of Thaci, a former Kosovo Liberation Army commander, but still won only 29 seats in the 120-seat legislature.

Vetevendosje and the second-place finisher, center-right opposition Democratic League (LDK), which won 28 seats, have been negotiating for months to form a government. Talks reportedly stalled over government posts and a unified choice to defeat Thaci's likely reelection bid in 2021.

Thaci and Kurti held talks on January 6, but the Vetevendosje chief then failed to propose a candidate to lead the government.

Kosovo has been recognized by more than 110 states since declaring independence from Serbia in 2008, but continues to face diplomatic and institutional hurdles stemming from nonrecognition by Serbia, Russia, and a handful of European Union states.

Talks on normalizing diplomatic relations with Serbia were derailed in 2018 by Pristina's imposition of 100-percent tariffs on Serbian goods in response to Belgrade's continued lobbying for countries to reverse their recognition of Kosovo.

International hopes on restarting those talks -- potentially leading to UN recognition for Kosovo and clearing other obstacles -- appear pinned on the next government.

Thaci said in November that dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade on normalizing ties should continue "without any conditionality."

With additional reporting by AP and Reuters