On 26 February Kosovo’s parliament elected Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci and leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) as President. He gained 71 votes from 81 members that were present during the election. The other candidate, Rafet Rama (PDK) did not receive any votes and the other 10 were declared invalid. Thaci won in the third round, after the first two failed because they required a two-third majority.
Chaos in session and on the street
During the parliamentary session opposition lawmakers threw in several tear gas canisters. The parliament speaker expelled 11 MPs and continued with a second vote. More tear gas was thrown during this vote. The opposition parties reject the agreement with Serbia on more local autonomy for Kosovo’s ethnic Serb minority, and blame Thaci for helping to broker the agreement. The Kosovo Albanians think this could affect the independence declared from Serbia in 2008. Leader of the main opposition Self-Determination Movement Party, Visar Ymeri said: “Someone who has violated the constitution cannot be Kosovo’s president.” Outside the parliament, demonstrators protested as well using Molotov cocktails. Police responded by using tear gas and water cannons to oppose the protests. The protests were similar to earlier demonstrations last week during the eight anniversary of Kosovo’s declared independence in 2008.
Closer EU ties
For nearly two decades Thaci has played a dominant role in Kosovo's political scene, making his name during the 1998-1999 war with Serbia as political leader of the pro-independence ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Under Thaci’s leadership Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. After the elections last Friday, Thaci thanked the MPs for their support and confidence and said this will open the way for fresh hope and optimism for Kosovo. He said to “build a new Kosovo, a European Kosovo and to deepen our relationship with the US.” The improved relations with Serbia are a step towards Thaci’s dream of joining the EU. But according to many analysts this will not happen very soon. Thaci has resigned as the leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo as it is required for his five-year term of president.