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US-Educated Lawyer Becomes Kosovo’s Second Female President – Analysis

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Kosovo MPs voted to make 38-year-old Vjosa Osmani the country’s new president on Sunday evening, ending a political deadlock that could have triggered snap elections for the second time this year.

By Prepares Isufi

Vjosa Osmani became Kosovo’s fifth head of state in 13 years since the country declared its independence from Serbia on Sunday night when MPs in the Kosovo Assembly voted to appoint her as president.

Osmani, a 38-year-old lawyer, also became the second woman to hold the post, after Atifete Jahjaga, who was president from 2011 to 2016.

The election of Osmani finalised the process of establishing governing institutions after the February 14 snap election which produced a landslide victory for Albin Kurti’s Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) party, which won more than 50 per cent of the votes and them backed Osmani for the presidency.

Her election ended a deadlock in a parliament session which started on Saturday night but was interrupted because two initial attempts to hold the vote on the presidency failed because there wasn’t a quorum. If she hadn’t been elected, Kosovo might have faced another snap election.

Albert Krasniqi from Pristina-based think tank Democracy + said that the MPs’ decision comes as a political relief.

“A major political crisis has been avoided. Failure to elect a president would have taken Kosovo into a cycle with many unknowns,” Krasniqi told Pristina-based TV station Dukagjini on Sunday evening.

But the opposition Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, which boycotted the parliamentary session, claimed that as president, Osmani “will serve Kurti alone”.

The PDK also alleged that Vetevendosje had caused “irreparable harm to the country’s democracy” by taking all three of the state’s most important positions – president, prime minister and parliament speaker – for the first time in Kosovo’s post-independence history.

Who is Vjosa Osmani?

The Mitrovica-born 38 year old lawyer, Vjosa Osmani, finished her Bachelor at Pristina University before completing her Master and Doctoral studies at US Pennsylvania’s Pittsburgh University where she was also visiting professor. In January 2020, Senate of Pristina University elected her as Assistant on International Law.

On February 3, 2020, Vjosa Osmani became the first Kosovo woman elected as parliament Speaker, while in November she became Acting President when President Hahim Thaci departed for the Hague, after his indictment on war crimes and crimes against humanity was confirmed.

A four time elected as MP, in February 14 snap elections Osmani became the most voted person ever with more than 300,000 votes as she run for MP as part of victorious Vetevendosje candidates’ list.

During 2006-2010, Osmani served as Chief of Staff to former President, Fatmir Sejdiu and was part of the Commission for drafting Kosovo Constitution. She was part of Kosovo team which defended the declaration of Kosovo independence at International Court of Justice in 2009-2010, which ruled that the declaration, contested by Serbia, did not violate the international law.

But her relations with the party she belonged until June 2020 were marred with ups and downs.

In 2015, Osmani was prevented to run for Chairperson post in party’s convention when she aimed at rivalling Isa Mustafa in a time when he was Prime Minister of Kosovo a part of a controversial coalition with Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, led by Hashim Thaci at that time, a coalition that Vjosa Osmani never supported.

In 2017 elections she became the second voted within LDK candidates although she was ranked 81 in the list, partly because of her tense relations with party’s leadership.

In 2019, under public pressure, LDK opted for Osmani for candidate for Prime Minister, a race LDK lost to Albin Kurti’s Vetevendosje with a small margin of votes.

In March 2020, Osmani paired with Kurti against her party when LDK, minor coalition partner, tabled and won a no confidence vote against Kurti’s government in the midst of pandemic and when she refused to back an LDK-run cabinet in early June, she was dismissed from all party positions.

Months after, Osmani formed her own political initiative “Guxo” (Dare), which ran in coalition with Vetevendosje at the February 14 elections.

Osmani’s election as President opens now the way for Kosovo to addressing urgent issues on the agenda, starting from pandemic with country remaining short on vaccine supply while high number of infections has aggravated the situation in hospitals.

Besides the internal pressing issues, international community has been keen to see some stability in Kosovo institution in order to address the long overdue dialogue with Serbia on normalisation of relation between two old foes.

“Dialogue [with Serbia] is the way ahead. The dialogue should be just and equal. The peace can be reached only if Serbia apologises for war crimes committed in Kosovo,” Osmani said in her first speech before MPs as President on Sunday.

Balkan Insight

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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