September 4, 2017 / 5:11 PM / a month ago

Kosovo parties sign deal to form government, end political deadlock

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo’s center-right coalition led by the Democratic Party of Kosovo signed a deal on Monday with the small New Alliance for Kosovo party to form a government, ending nearly three months of political deadlock after an election on June 11.

“Finally Kosovo has started to move ... we had some big delays and our institutions now will be formed,” said Ramush Haradinaj, from the center-right coalition of parties made up of former guerrillas who fought the 1998-99 war against Serb forces.

Under the deal, the parties along with ethnic minorities will secure 63 seats in the 120-seat parliament.

President Hashim Thaci is expected to give Haradinaj a mandate to form the government within days. A source who asked not to be named told Reuters the parliament session to elect the parliament speaker would be held this week.

Haradinaj, who twice stood trial before the United Nations war crimes court for war crimes and was acquitted, briefly held the post of prime minister in 2005.

The smaller New Alliance for Kosovo party is led by Behgjet Pacolli, who is dubbed by media the richest Kosovar.

Pacolli, who also holds a Swiss passport, won many contracts from the Russian government to rebuild state buildings in Moscow in the ‘90s but a decade ago he moved his business from Moscow to Kazakhstan.

It is unclear what post Pacolli will hold in the new government.

The new government will have to tackle unemployment running at 30 percent and improve relations with Kosovo’s neighbors, especially Serbia, a precondition for both countries to move forward in the European Union accession process.

It must also reform health and education and the tax administration system as well as include representatives of some 120,000 Kosovo Serbs who do not recognize independence.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after NATO air strikes drove out Serbian forces accused of expelling and killing ethnic Albanian civilians in a two-year counter-insurgency.

Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Ivana Sekularac and Ralph Boulton

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