Lawmakers in Kosovo elected and swore in a new president for a five-year term, the Balkan nation’s second female leader in the post-war period.
The 120-seat parliament, which convened in an extraordinary session for two days, gave 71 votes for Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu, the former parliament speaker, in the third round of voting, while 11 votes were invalid.
Two opposition parties and the ethnic Serb minority party boycotted the voting.
In November, the 38-year-old Osmani-Sadriu temporarily replaced former President Hashim Thaci a guerrilla leader during Kosovo’s war for independence from Serbia in the late 1990s, who resigned after facing charges for war crimes and crimes against humanity at a special court based in The Hague
Osmani-Sadriu, post-war Kosovo’s seventh president and its second female one, had the backing of the left-wing Self-Determination Movement, or Vetevendosje!, which won Kosovo’s Feb. 14 early election in a landslide. The party now holds the three top posts: the president, the speaker and the prime minister.
Osmani-Sadriu was the top vote-getter in that election.
As president, she will have largely a ceremonial post as the head of state. But she also has a leading position in foreign policy and is the commander of the armed forces.
Resuming normalization talks with former war foe Serbia is a priority in her list, even though the government of Prime Minister Albin Kurti has said it’s not high in its key goals.
Kosovo became independent in 2008 after NATO intervened in 1999 to stop then-Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic’s bloody crackdown on Albanian independence fighters’ insurrection. It is recognized by more than 100 countries but not by Serbia or Serbian allies like Russia and China
Kosovo, officially known as the Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008.
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.
Here are more facts to know about her according to Fabwoman
- Vjosa Osmani was born on 17 May 1982 in Mitrovica, then a part of SFR Yugoslavia.
- She has four siblings and completed her primary and secondary education in her hometown
- She has clear memories as a teenager during the Kosovo War of a soldier forcing an AK-47 rifle into her mouth after her home in Mitrovica had been raided.
- Osmani has a bachelor’s degree in law from the University of Prishtina in Kosovo. She also has a master’s degree in law from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (Pitt Law) in 2005 and a doctorate in juridical science in 2015.
- She has been a teaching assistant at the University of Pristina, a lecturer at RIT Kosovo, and a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh in her academic career.
- Osmani speaks Albanian, English, Serbian, Spanish, and Turkish.
- She began her political career in her teens, as an activist for the center-right Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK).
- On 27 August 2009, she was elected chief of staff for then-president Fatmir Sejdiu. Osmani had also served as legal counsel and foreign policy advisor to the president.
- She was a member of the Assembly of Kosovo for three terms, and once received the largest number of votes for a female politician in Kosovan parliamentary history.
- She contributed to the Independence of Kosovo and also represented the country in a case at the International Court of Justice, where she defended the legality of Kosovo’s independence.
- Osmani was viewed as a possible prime minister of Kosovo by the LDK in the 2019 snap parliamentary election but lost the election to Albin Kurti.
- She was removed as her party’s deputy leader on June 20, 2020, after the LDK leader, Mustafa called for her dismissal. Osmani later quit the LDK altogether on 7 September 2020.
- In 2020, she was appointed acting president of Kosovo after President Thaçi vacated the post in November after being charged with war crimes.
- Osmani was subsequently sworn in for a five-year term on April 4, 2021, becoming Kosovo’s second female president.
- She is married to Prindon Sadriu, an employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and they have twin daughters
KOSOVO HAS A NEW PRESIDENT
Vjosa Osmani, PhD
Ex President’s Chief of Staff
Ex President’s Legal Counsel & Foreign Policy advisor
3 Terms member of the Assembly of Kosovo
Acting President, 2020
Formed wining party in Jan 2021#StatiSense
— StatiSense (@StatiSense) April 9, 2021
In her inaugural speech, she says that Kosovo managed to get this point through purely democratic means — fair and open elections. “We are closing the preamble of our young history. Now we launch our first chapter of success… We are an example even for developed democracies.”
— Aleksandar Brezar (@brezaleksandar) April 4, 2021
Kosovo is in news – (Kosovo war and Battle of Kosovo are entirely different!). With 61+ MPs in favor, Vjosa Osmani, 38, the most voted candidate a jurist has become the fifth president of Kosovo : https://t.co/BvxItNEw1G pic.twitter.com/5WxY6hsiCb
— Triplicane Sampath (@KairaviniSampat) April 11, 2021
Mrs Vjosa Osmani (38), a second wife in a polygamous marriage set up has been elected as Kosovo’s new President.
Congratulations Madam President. pic.twitter.com/EJXGVvxhmn
— Mike Sonko (@MikeSonko) April 5, 2021