Thu, Feb 24, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Kosovo parliament elects president and prime minister

AP, PRISTINA

Kosovo’s parliament elected former rebel leader Hashim Thaci to a second term as prime minister on Tuesday and chose businessman Behgjet Pacolli as the country’s new president.

Hashim Thaci was voted in 65-1 to head a coalition government facing growing social tensions and a new round of talks with Serbia aimed at resolving a score of disputes. He also faces an investigation into allegations that members of the now-disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army once sold the organs of their civilian captives.

MULTIMILLIONAIRE

Pacolli, a self-declared multimillionaire who owns a Swiss-based construction company, received 62 votes, with 4 against. Pacolli, the country’s second president since Kosovo seceded from Serbia in 2008, was elected on the third attempt, after failing to secure at least 80 votes in the first two rounds of voting as required by law.

Just 67 of 120 lawmakers were present as most of the opposition had walked out in protest over his nomination.

Pacolli was suspected of bribing Russian officials in 1999 to win a deal to renovate the Kremlin, and also of smuggling hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash into Russia — but the allegations against him did not reach trial stage. Russia backs Serbia’s claim to Kosovo and Pacolli has often been demonized in the Kosovo press for his links to Russian businesses.

The walkout also highlighted the political rivalries that have troubled Kosovo politics for decades — differences bottled up ahead of the 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia.

TARNISHED

Since then, Kosovo’s leadership has been tarnished by a series of corruption scandals, including an EU-led investigation into alleged embezzlement of public funds by Kosovo Transport Minster Fatmir Limaj.

Limaj said he would not be part of the new Cabinet after International officials requested that officials being investigated be left out of the new government.

Thaci’s party won the most votes in Kosovo’s Dec. 12 election that was marred by electoral fraud and a series of voting irregularities before results were finally certified by election authorities. He was forced to form a coalition with minority parties to rule, including that of key ally, Pacolli.

Kosovo’s independence has been recognized by 75 countries, but Serbia has pledged to revert the secession.

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