On Sunday, April 4, Vjosa Osmani was elected president by Kosovo’s MPs. This was the final decision in the process of electing governing institutions following the February 14 snap election which saw Albin Kurti’s Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) party win over 50% of the votes. The Vetevendosje party went on to endorse Osmani’s campaign. Osmani’s election ended a political deadlock, which had begun on April 3. The first two attempts to elect a president had failed as there were not enough members of the political assembly present in order to validate the vote. The election of Osmani has avoided another snap election in Kosovo.
Albert Krasniqi, a representative of the Pristina-based think tank Democracy + stated that Osmani’s appointment avoided “A major political crisis.” Krasniqi added that “Failure to elect a president would have taken Kosovo into a cycle with many unknowns.”
The Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, opposed the appointment of Osmani, stating that she “will serve Kurti alone.”
Osmani who had been serving as interim president following Hashim Thaçi’s resignation in 2020 due to charges of crimes against humanity, has been elected for a five-year term as president. In her victory speech, she said, “We will be eternally grateful to those who stand by Kosovo through freedom and independence and the establishment of the state. Today we ask them to stand by our side in our common goals for rapid integration into Euro-Atlantic structures.”
Osmani won 71 votes out of a possible 82. Members of Thaçi’s party of former guerrilla fighters and representatives of the Serbian ethnic minority boycotted the election.
Vjosa Osmani is a reformist lawyer, with a history in Kosovan politics. From 2006-2010, Osmani served as Chief of Staff to former President, Fatima Sejdiu. She was also involved in drafting the Kosovo Constitution, as well as participating in a team which appeared at the International Court of Justice in 2009-2010 to defend the declaration of Kosovo independence. On February 3, 2020 Osmani was voted the first Kosovo woman to be Parliament Speaker.
Osmani’s relationship with Kosovan politics has not always been positive. In 2015, she was banned from running for the Chairperson post as she planned to rival Isa Mustafa, the president at the time. Mustafa was part of a controversial coalition with the PDK, a coalition which Osmani never supported. In the 2017 elections, Osmani was the second-most voted for MP, however, she was ranked number 81 in the list of Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) candidates due to her tense relationship with the party leadership. LDK chose Osmani as their candidate for Prime Minister in 2019 due to intense public pressure. LDK was then beaten by Kurti’s Vetevendosje party.
In March 2020, Osmani partnered with Albin Kurti against her own party as LDK had won a no-confidence vote, toppling Kurti’s government. In June 2020, Osmani refused to back an LDK-run cabinet resulting in her dismissal from the party. In late 2020, Osmani created her own political initiative called “Guxo” (Dare) which ran in coalition with Vetevendosje during the February 14 elections.
With her recent appointment as President of Kosovo, Osmani intends to address some of the urgent issues which have been on the governmental agenda for a long time. She plans to start with the Covid-19 pandemic as Kosovo only has a small number of vaccination supplies in contrast to the high numbers of infections which are putting intense pressure on the country’s hospitals.
Moving forward, the international community hopes to see a more stable government in Kosovo so that a dialogue can be opened with Serbia to address the reparation of their relationship which has been tense since the Yugoslav war.
During her first presidential speech, Osmani stated that “Dialogue [with Serbia] is the way ahead. The dialogue should be just and equal. The peace can be reached only if Serbia apologizes for war crimes committed against Kosovo.”