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Kosovo chooses new government after six-month stalemate

Kosovo’s lawmakers have approved a new coalition government, ending a political stalemate that has lasted for six months. It comes after a deal was made between the conservative and democratic parties.

Kosovo's lawmakers have approved a new government, ending a political stalemate that has lasted for six months.

Although general elections were held in the former Serbian province in June,

infighting between political parties had prevented the formation of a new government.

Kosovo's coalition administration will be headed by veteran politician Isa Mustafa, leader of the conservative Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK). He is the first prime minister not linked with pro-independence insurgents.

The territory's legislators voted to back the new government 73 to 38.

The election of 63-year-old Mustafa followed a surprise deal struck on Monday, between his party and that of outgoing prime minister, Hashim Thaci, who will stay on in the cabinet as deputy leader and foreign minister.

“I would like to stress our readiness to work together with all sides for the benefit of Kosovo citizens,” Mustafa said following the vote.

But some commentators have speculated the deal was made under international pressure, particularly from the United States and the EU.

“It is not a government which inspires hopes, rather it kills it,” analyst Enver Robelli told news agency AFP.

The new government is anticipated to continue talks with Serbia overseen by the European Union (EU), a requirement for both countries who hope to receive membership in the bloc.

The Mustafa-run partnership is also expected to pass legislation allowing for the creation of a special EU-run court to prosecute former Albanian war commanders, for crimes such as human trafficking committed during the Kosovo War in the late nineties.

The new cabinet comes into being at a time when unemployment and social discontent are peaking, largely due to a lack of outside investment in the region.

Some potential investors claim Kosovo officials have asked for kickbacks in exchange for allowing them to conduct business.

Almost half of Kosovo's citizens live in poverty, making it one of Europe's poorest regions.

Mustafa began his career in the 1970s, and has been described as a “political chameleon”.

He was finance minister for almost a decade in Kosovo's exiled government formed in Germany, prior to the 1998-1999 independence war against Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic.

Following a break he returned to politics in 2007, and was elected mayor of the country's capital, Pristina.

Three years later he became leader of the LDK.

Familiar faces

Former guerilla fighter Thaci has ruled Kosovo since it declared independence from Serbia in 2008, and was instrumental in leading his side in the Kosovo War. He was later accused of using violence to run the post-independence government.

Although

Thaci's center-left Democratic Party came first in the June 8 vote

, it did not have enough seats in the parliament in order to form a ruling coalition and back him as prime minister. Meanwhile, the Mustafa-led LDK formed an alliance with three other parties, effectively blocking Thaci's third mandate.

But Kosovo's constitution states that only the front-runner in an election may nominate the speaker of parliament, meaning the opposition couldn't name its own candidate and proceed with nominating a prime minister.

However, under Kosovo law a government cannot be formed until a speaker has been chosen.

That problem was solved when Mustafa left the alliance and made a deal with Thaci.

Thaci is expected to challenge for the presidency in 2016.

The new administration has eight ministers from the LDK, and seven from the PDK. A further two ministers will come from minor parties, while others will be run by the country's minority Serb population, who has endorsed the new partnership.

Already the government is receiving global praise, with Western nations imploring Kosovo to continue with political and economic reforms.

an/es (AFP, AP)

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