Kosovo elects popular leader as President

Pristina, April 5 2021: Kosovo legislators overcame an opposition boycott to elect Vjosa Osmani as president.

The 38-year-old law professor, a standard bearer of a generation determined to fight corruption, received 71 votes from the 82 deputies present.

“I will work for the strengthening of the state, the rule of law,” Osmani told the parliament, adding that “I will be the president of all”.

Osmani was backed by Prime Minister Albin Kurti and his Vetevendosje movement which won more than 50 percent of the vote in a general election in February. The victory on Sunday on the parliament’s third attempt resolved a stalemate caused by members including the former guerrillas and minority Serbs both boycotting the vote.

Osmani and Kurti must now mend a weak economy that provides Kosovars with an average monthly salary of just 500 euros (less than $600), and has pushed youth unemployment to around 50 percent.

With six female ministers in a 15-strong cabinet, their new administration is also pushing back on longstanding exclusion of woman from power. “Today, Kosovo elected a woman president,” a visibly moved Osmani said.

Meanwhile Belgrade’s continued refusal to recognise Kosovar independence remains a source of tension beyond the territory’s frontiers. The European Union and United States will press the new government to resume a dialogue with Serbia aimed at easing regional tensions.

To tackle the pandemic crisis, Osmani and Kurti must quickly get to grips with a lack of Covid-19 vaccines and an overwhelmed health system as the country struggles to stem the coronavirus spread which has killed 1,900 people.

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