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Kosovan parliament elects controversial leaders

Kosovo's parliament has elected controversial leader, Hashim Thaci to a second term as prime minister. Opposition parties walked out of the parliamentary session which also saw the election of President Behgiet Pacolli.

Hashim Thaci

Hashim Thaci faces allegations relating to organ trafficking

A parliamentary session held in Kosovo on Tuesday marked the end of months of political stalemate with controversial appointments.

Former rebel leader Hashim Thaci was elected to a second term as prime minister. He will be the head of the new coalition government which has faced months of uncertainty following disputed Kosovan elections in December.

After the vote Thaci promised a new beginning for a country which is facing growing social tensions and is among the poorest in Europe.

"We have ended a marathon (election) process. Today we opened a new chapter, the chapter of a European Kosovo, with development and reforms," Thaci told parliament.

Opposition walkout

The former rebel leader won with a majority of 65 parliamentary seats to one in a vote marred by an opposition walkout. Only 66 deputies stayed to vote in the 120-seat parliament.

Thaci will form a coalition government with the newly appointed president from the populist New Kosovo Alliance party, construction tycoon Behgiet Pacolli. Pacolli was narrowly appointed after a third round of voting with only 62 votes.

Both Thaci and Pacolli are considered controversial figures. Last month Thaci was linked to organized crime and organ trafficking following a report by the Council of Europe.

Behgjet Pacolli

President Behgjet Pacolli denies allegations of bribery

The claims date back to when he was a leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which fought against Serb forces. It is alleged that the KLA sold the organs of their civilian captives. Thaci denies the claims, which have battered his international reputation.

Allegations also surround previous business dealings of millionaire construction tycoon, Behgiet Paccolo

In his book "From Challenge to Challenge," Pacolli says he was interviewed by Swiss and Russian prosecutors on charges that he bribed Russian President Boris Yeltsin's administration

to get lucrative construction contracts. He denies the charges, however, and says that they were designed to damage his business.

Pacolli, owner of the Swiss-based construction company Mabetex, is widely considered to be the richest man in Kosovo.

Deeply unpopular

He was appointed despite being deeply unpopular among the two million Kosovo Albanians. They object to Pacolli's close business ties with Moscow since Russia backs Serbia, Kosovo's former ruler, in opposing Kosovo's independence.

Kosovo's first election since independence from Serbia, in December, was marred by allegations of corruption. January saw a rerun of disputed votes in which Thaci's PDK party was left without a majority.

The coalition will now hold long awaited talks with Serbia. It also faces the task of creating jobs and bringing down Kosovo's 48 percent unemployment rate.

Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill (AFP, Reuters)

Editor: Michael Lawton

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