The 38-year-old reformist and lawyer Vjosa Osmani was named president by the country’s parliament in Pristina on Sunday with the support of Prime Minister Albin Kurti and his Vetevendosje (self-determination) party.
Osmani received 71 votes from the 82 legislators present in the 120-seat parliament.
While the president’s duties are largely ceremonial, Osmani will now be the commander of the country’s armed forces, as well as serving as one of the country’s main diplomatic agents.
Two opposition parties and the ethnic Serb minority party refused to take part in the vote.
Who is Vjosa Osmani?
Osmani started her career as a teenage activist. She studied law in Pristina and completed her master’s and bachelor’s degree at the US University of Pittsburgh.
The politician was one of the highest officials of the Democratic League of Kosovo (DLK) party. However, Osmani was ousted from the organization after bipartisan conflicts.
She remained an extremely popular figure and won over 300,000 votes as a Vetevendosje candidate in the February elections.
Osmani is also considered a role model for women in the mostly patriarchal Balkan country.
Unlike Prime Minister Kurti, Osmani said it was a priority for her to resume stalled normalization talks with Serbia.
Officially, Belgrade still regards Kosovo as a Serbian province and rejects its 2008 declaration of independence.
On Sunday, Osmani again called for dialogue, but also called on Belgrade to apologize for the conflict of the 1990s and to prosecute war criminals.
“Peace would only be achieved when we see repentance and an apology from Serbia and when we see justice for those who have suffered from their crimes,” she said.
She is the second female leader of Kosovo after Atifete Jahjaga, who served as president between 2011 and 2016.
Why is Osmani succeeding Hashim Thaci?
The position became vacant in November after Hashim Thaci resigned on charges of war crimes. Osmani, who previously acted as spokesman for Kosovo’s 120-seat parliament, provisionally assumed the role of president ahead of Sunday’s vote.
Like most Kosovar politicians, Thaci built his reputation on his war history and fought as a guerrilla commander against Serbian forces.
The war culminated in 1999 with the NATO bombing campaign against Serbia, which forced Belgrade to withdraw its police and military from Kosovo.
With support from the US and other Western countries, Kosovo declared independence, but Russia, China and several other EU countries do not recognize it as an independent state.
The country continues to be marked by economic problems and political divisions, and occasional tensions with Belgrade.
Both Osmani and Prime Minister Albin Kurti present themselves as part of the next generation of Kosovar politicians who are committed to more liberal values and are committed to fighting widespread corruption.
Kurti’s Vetevendosje party secured a resounding victory in the parliamentary elections in February, but fell short of an absolute majority in parliament by two seats.
Sunday’s vote is another step in consolidating the party’s dominance as the country’s prime minister, new parliamentary speaker and president are all from Vetevendosje.
dj / mm (AP, dpa, Beta)