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Rugova Fails to Win Presidency in Kosovo

Kosovo’s parliament rejects Ibrahim Rugova, winner of November’s first general election, as future president.


Rugova failed at his second attempt to become the first president of Kosovo

This was the second time the moderate Rugova, leader of the widely popular Democratic League of Kosovo (DLK), had failed to garner the required two-thirds majority to become his country’s first ever president.

During Thursday's meeting of the parliament, Rugova received only 50 votes from the 120-member parliament.

A quick third round of voting was organized in a last-ditch attempt to find a president. The vote required just a simple majority of the votes, but only brought in 51 counts – 10 less than the 61 needed.

A month ago, after failing to meet two-thirds of the majority during the first round of voting, Rugova and his party were sent back to the negotiation table. He has been working to build support for his presidency since then.

November elections

With 46 percent of the vote, Rugova’s party won the country’s first parliamentary elections held in mid-November, outdistancing the rival Democratic Party of Kosovo (DPK) led by Hashim Thaqi, which only received 25 percent. This was a clear victory but did not bring Rugova enough votes for him to rule alone; he was forced to form a coalition.

The most likely candidate for Rugova’s coalition partner was the DPK. But in December Thaqi had refused to back Rugova’s election for president after Rugova rejected his demands for the position of prime minister.

The loss of the DPK’s supporting votes forced Rugova’s party to consider forming a coalition with representatives of the Kosovar Serbs, the third largest party in the country. But this was something none of the ethnic Albanian parties would ever embrace. Instead Rugova decided to stand up for the second round of elections without a coalition partner – a decision which cost him a significant number of votes.

Uncertain future

Rugova’s failure on Thursday means that Kosovo still remains without a president and a ruling government.

A representative of the International Crisis Group said the dangling outcome of the presidential election could trigger bitter infighting in the DLK as well as throughout Kosovo.

The parliament’s failure to elect a president will also resonate beyond Kosovo, as disappointed Western officials begin to voice their doubt as to whether or not Kosovo’s newly elected leaders are ready to face the challenges ahead.

Prior to the election, the EU Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana had issued a direct warning to the Kosovo parliament to elect a president and prime minister during Thursday’s meeting.

Under the UN-brokered peace agreement, the election of a president and the establishment of a government in Kosovo was one of the pre-requisites for granting the UN protectorate more self-government. Now Kosovo is just as far from its goals of independence as it was prior to November’s elections.

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