Kosovo to hold early election after court ruling

PRISTINA, KOSOVO (AP) — Kosovo’s Constitutional Court ruled that the country must hold a new general election because Parliament’s confirmation of the Cabinet in June only passed because of an invalid vote by a lawmaker who has since been jailed.

The court decided on Monday that the vote of lawmaker Etem Arifi, of the minority Ashkali Party for Integration, for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti was invalid and consequently “the government has not taken the majority of the votes of the lawmakers”.

Arifi’s vote gave the government 61 votes in the 120-seat chamber, and without it the confirmation would have failed.

The President now should declare the date of the election, which must take place within 40 days of the announcement.

The court ruled at the request of 16 lawmakers from the opposition left-wing Self-Determination Movement, or Vetevendosje. The party had been part of a short-lived coalition with Hoti’s Democratic League of Kosovo until June, but left following a falling-out. Hoti then created another coalition, which was approved in the vote that has now been ruled illegal.

Arifi was sentenced to 15 months in jail in August 2019 for illegally using EUR26,000 euros of public money given to a non-governmental organisation for personal profit. Nevertheless, he ran for the new Parliament in October last year, and as leader of a Roma minority party he was automatically elected to the Parliament.

Arifi handed himself over to police in September and is now serving his sentence.

Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti. PHOTO: AP