Police tape around the main square in Pristina as a measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, April 6, 2020. Photo: EPA-EFE/ Valdrin Xhemaj

 

Amid calls for public rallies against the formation of a new government without new elections, outgoing PM Albin Kurti has told BIRN’s TV show that he would not stop people from protesting – despite the ongoing health crisis and curbs on outdoor movement.

by Xhorxhina Bami

 

Outgoing Prime Minister Albin Kurti on Thursday said he would not stop citizens of Kosovo from protesting in public on May 4 against the formation of a new government under a different leader without fresh legislative elections.

“Citizens have never been angrier; I can’t stop them from protesting, but I can’t say that this protest was organised by us,” Kurti told BIRN Kosovo’s TV show Life in Kosovo.

Kurti, also leader of the Vetevendosje movement, LVV, said he would not engage in the organisation of such protests. “If I have to return to the position of LVV chairman in the active sense of the word, then we must gather the leadership and make decisions – but this is not a protest that we have initiated,” Kurti said.

The Prime Minister, whose government was toppled by a no-confidence vote in parliament in March, was referring to a Facebook message calling on people to protest on May 4 against what it called the theft of democracy in Kosovo.

The Facebook event, “Manifestim per Zgjedhje” (“Election manifestation”), is being organised by the Facebook page “10 Milion Shqiptare” (10 Million Albanians), which regularly publishes posts in support of Kurti and his party.

“We want elections and we will not allow the theft of power. We want a government that is legitimate and elected by the people of Kosovo. Do not disregard the will of the people,” the organisers wrote.

“U bo boll! Jemi lodhe!” (“It has been enough! We are tired!”), they added. On April 22, the administrators of the page insisted that the protest was not being organised by Vetevendosje.

By the time of publication of the post, 4,500 Facebook users had promised to participate in the protest, while another 9,600 had expressed interest.

The call for protests is controversial in the context of the current health crisis, however. On March 15, the government introduced tough curbs on outdoor movement, allowing people to go out only for 90 minutes during a scheduled time slot.

The measures are in force until May 4; the protest is planned for that day, but only if the movement restrictions are lifted as planned. In the case of new measures, the event will be delayed.

Kurti supporters feel angered by the way the President of Kosovo has pushed ahead with moves to form a new government from the existing parties in parliament without calling fresh elections.

On Thursday, President Hashim Thaci gave the mandate to nominate a new PM to Kurti’s former coalition partners in the Democratic League of Kosovo LDK.

Thaci handed the mandate to the LDK after Vetevendosje failed to submit any names to the President, although it insisted that it had not refused to accept the mandate.

The law requires the mandate to be given to the party with most seats in parliament, in this case Vetevendosje. If the first party then refuses the mandate, the President can give it to the second biggest party in parliament, in this case the LDK.

This would be the second protest held of Kosovo citizens held during the period of social isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Before the government was toppled on March 25, many people joined daily protests against the political wrangling for six days in a row from their balconies, while in self-isolation. They banged kitchen utensils every evening at 8pm, and also before the start of the no-confidence motion parliamentary session at 11am. The protests were designed to tell Kosovo politicians to put the public interest and the health of the citizens first – before their own personal and political interests.

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