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Hashim Thaci picked as Kosovo president despite protests in parliament

Lawmakers have chosen Kosovo's current foreign minister and former PM Hashim Thaci to be the country's president. Opposition parties are angry at his role in an EU-brokered deal with neighbor Serbia.

Friday's voting was eventually concluded despite several disturbances, including the discharging of tear gas canisters inside the parliamentary chamber and petrol bombs on the streets outside.

Forty-seven-year-old Thaci failed to secure the required support of two-thirds of all MPs in the first two rounds of voting but a third round required only a simple majority.

The election commission said 81 MPs from the 120-seat parliament took part in the final round, with 71 of them voting for Thaci.

"We conclude that Mr. Hashim Thaci was elected president of the Republic of Kosovo for a term of five years," the commission said.

Closer EU ties

Following the vote, the foreign minister and

former prime minister

resigned as leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo to take up the largely ceremonial role of president.

Thaci pledged to "build a new Kosovo, a European Kosovo and to deepen our relationship with the US."

Friday's chaos unraveled four hours into the parliamentary session, when opposition lawmakers threw several tear gas canisters, which prompted the parliament speaker to eject 11 MPs.

Kosovo protest

Protest outside parliament on Friday. Photo by Bekim Shehu

More tear gas was thrown during a second vote about an hour later.

Controversial deal

Opposition parties are angry that Thaci helped broker an agreement with Serbia on more local autonomy for Kosovo's Serbs, a move many Kosovo Albanians believe could erode the country's hard-won independence, which it declared from Serbia in 2008.

The former guerrilla leader during Kosovo's separatist war against Serbia in 1998-99 is accused of not being a unifying figure for the country.

MPs were warned that a failure to elect the president on Friday would force a dissolution of parliament and snap elections within 45 days, two years ahead of schedule.

Street protests

Outside parliament, police in riot gear backed by armored vehicles used tear gas and water cannons to disperse several hundred demonstrators. There were no reports of casualties.

Protesters shouted, "Hashim, Hashim we want you in jail!" and "Hashim, the traitor!"

Riot police fired tear gas at protesters who threw Molotov cocktails.

The scenes were similar to

demonstrations held last week,

on the eighth anniversary of the country's independence.

mm/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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