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Kosovo parliament elects Vjosa Osmani as new president

PRISTINA: Kosovo’s parliament has appointed a 38-year-old US-educated female law professor as the country’s new president, following an election in February.

Vjosa Osmani took over as acting president of Kosovo last November when her predecessor, Hashim Thaci, resigned ahead of his impending war crimes trial in the Netherlands.

Osmani’s initial mandate expired when the new government of Prime Minister Albin Kurti, the head of ruling party Vetevendosje, took over following the February 14 election.

The 120-seat parliament voted in favour of appointing Osmani president by 71 votes. She is the Balkan nation’s seventh president, and second female leader, in the post-war period.

Opposition parties and civil society watchdogs have criticised her appointment, saying that having a president, prime minister and speaker of parliament all from the same party is not welcome in a country with a fragile democracy.

As president, Osmani will have largely a ceremonial post as the head of state. But she also has a leading position in foreign policy and is the commander of the armed forces.

In a speech, Osmani called for a dialogue aimed at normalising ties with Serbia, but said Belgrade must first apologise and prosecute those responsible for war crimes committed during the 1998-99 war that ultimately led to Kosovo becoming independent in 2008.

“Peace would be achieved only when we see remorse and an apology from Serbia and when we see justice for those who have suffered from their crimes,” Osmani said.

Until last September Osmani was a high ranking official of the Democratic League of Kosovo party, which she quit to join forces with Kurti.

She is not a member of the anti-establishment Vetevendosje, but she ran on their list in the February elections. She is married and has two daughters.

Former President Thaci, a wartime hero who turned politician, is currently in The Hague awaiting trial before the Netherlands-based Kosovo’s war crimes court. He has denied the charges against him.



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