With 82 votes in favour, 32 against and one abstention, MPs have voted to dismiss the Kosovo Government after passing a no confidence motion proposed by junior partner in the coalition LDK.

In an extraordinary session of the Kosovo Assembly held on Wednesday, Kosovo MPs voted to dismiss the Kosovo Government, less than two months after it came to power.

Following a more than 11-hour debate, MPs voted in favour of a motion of no confidence in the coalition government primarily made up of Vetevendosje and the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, with 82 votes in favour, 32 against and one abstention.

117 MPs were present to vote on the motion, which was initiated by junior partner in the coalition LDK following the dismissal of interior minister Agim Veliu.

Head of LDK’s parliamentary group, Arben Gashi, introduced the motion at the Assembly by stating that Prime Minister Albin Kurti had violated the governing coalition agreement by firing Veliu.

He added that Kurti’s position on the removal of the 100 per cent import tariffs placed on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina had jeopardised Kosovo’s relationship with the United States.

“The prime minister, in less than 50 working days, through inaction and unconstructive positions in relation to strategic partners in general, and with the United States in particular, has made it impossible for the government to function,” Gashi said.

Addressing the session, the head of Vetevendosje’s parliamentary group Rexhep Selimi rejected Gashi’s arguments, claiming that the true intention of the motion was to remove the party from government, clearing a path to sign a final deal between Kosovo and Serbia.

“This session is not about removal of the tariff on Serbian goods, nor the sacking of the minister of interior,” Selimi said. “This session was called in order to conclude a harmful deal with Serbia, an agreement which would not in any way be accepted by a Vetevendosje government.”

Selimi’s argument was echoed later in the session by Kurti, who stated that the motivation behind the motion was “nothing less than a prepared agreement which involves a territorial land swap between Kosovo and Serbia.”

Kurti added that he was convinced a deal was ready to be signed, citing a conversation he had behind closed doors with Kosovo President Hashim Thaci. “He [Thaci] repeated it 3 times: ‘Remove the tax, we go to Washington together, we sign the agreement and get rid of Serbia,’” Kurti said.

Memli Krasniqi, the head of the parliamentary group of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, confirmed that the largest opposition party at the Assembly would vote in favour of the motion. “In a short period, this government has endangered Kosovo’s most vital alliance, that with the US, and failed to offer a programme for development that the citizens expected,” Krasniqi said.

Defending his government, Kurti listed a number of what he felt were its achievements, including cutting government spending, depoliticising the boards of public enterprises and reviewing infrastructure projects put forward by the previous government.

The prime minister criticised the motion of no confidence, describing it as an attack on the democratic will of the people of Kosovo.

“This motion aims to leave the people without the government that they voted for,” Kurti said. “Second, it leaves the people without a reformist government that undoubtedly fights corruption. Third, it leaves the people without a government in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Speaker of the Assembly and LDK’s candidate for prime minister at October’s parliamentary elections Vjosa Osmani also criticised the motion, saying it was not the will of the Kosovar electorate.

“I disagree with the motion of no confidence, especially at this time,” Osmani said. “The voice of the citizens has not been heard today and I do not break the trust of the citizens at any price, so I will vote against the motion. I will vote against because I will vote for the future of my country.”

The timing of the motion, passed while Kosovo is in the midst of the global coronavirus outbreak, was heavily criticised prior to the session by civil society organisations, citizens and state representatives of Kosovo’s allies.

On Tuesday night, the foreign ministers of France and Germany made a joint declaration voicing their concerns about the political situation in Kosovo during the global pandemic. “Kosovo needs a stable and fully functioning government to deal with this crisis,” the statement read. “Therefore, we urge that the vote of no-confidence in the Government be reconsidered or postponed.”

On Wednesday morning, a group of 13 Kosovo civil society organisations also released a joint statement, stating that the motion risked descending Kosovo into crisis. A citizen-led protest against the uncertainty caused by politicians during the coronavirus outbreak has been continuing daily since March 19.

During the extraordinary session, Vetevendosje MP Mimoza Kusari-Lila and LDK MP Ardian Shala both spoke out against holding the vote during the pandemic, with Shala breaking party lines to vote against the motion.

“We are the only state in the world to come up with a motion at a time when governments are extending their mandates to fight coronavirus,” Kusari-Lila said. “The only country today that shows no evidence of responsibility as a state is Kosovo and its deputies.”

However, the US Ambassador to Kosovo, Philip Kosnett, tweeted that he was pleased that the session on the no-confidence vote would be held, later being re-tweeted by US Special Envoy to the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Richard Grenell.

With its dismissal, the Vetevendosje-LDK coalition became the shortest government in Kosovo’s history with just 51 days in office. No Kosovo Government has ever completed a four year mandate.

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