Kosovo parliament elects Vjosa Osmani as new national president

·2 min read
Parliamentary election in Kosovo

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo's parliament has appointed a 38-year-old U.S.-educated female law professor and candidate of the ruling Vetevendosje party 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 Vetevendosje, took over following the Feb. 14 election.

On Sunday the 120-seat parliament voted in favour of appointing Osmani president by 71 votes.

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.

Osmani represents a type of young Kosovar more familiar with life in the West and frustrated with the nepotism and ineffectiveness of the country's traditional parties.

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.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Writing by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Hugh Lawson)