Vetevendosje candidate and former PM Albin Kurti may be barred from standing in the February 14 elections – after the Kosovo Judicial Council ruled that 47 candidates were theoretically unable to run having been found guilty of a criminal offence in court.
Albin Kurti’s hopes of becoming Prime Minister of Kosovo once again have been set back after the Central Election Commission, CEC, on Wednesday said 15 of the 28 political entities that had applied to run in the February 14 snap elections had proposed candidates “not in line with the Law on General Elections, which specifies that a person who has been found guilty of a criminal charge in the last three years cannot run as an MP”.
Kurti, head of the main opposition Vetevendosje party, and Albulena Haxhiu, a former Justice Minister, were were handed conditional prison sentences by a Prishtina court in January 2018 for throwing tear gas in parliament.
The Kosovo Judicial Council verified the candidates acting on a CEC request. “Overall, 47 of 1,081 candidates have been found guilty of a crime by a final court verdict,” CEC spokesperson Valmir Elezi told the media.
Those affected by the process could submit a challenge to the Election Complaints and Appeals Panel after the CEC completes certification. If the outcome is still negative, the Supreme Court is the final instance to decide the contest.
No names haved yet been provided, but BIRN has learned that the list, among others, contains Kurti and Haxhiu.
At the time of the tear gas incident, Kurti’s party bitterly opposed the then government’s agreement on border demarcation with Montenegro and another agreement reached with Serbia on establishing a semi-autonomous association of Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo.
Immediately after the CEC communicated its information, Haxhiu took to Facebook to defend Kurti, the party’s candidate for Prime Minister in the election.
“Albin enjoys the support of many citizens and this support is undisputable, therefore citizens are rightfully concerned about deliberate tendencies to remove him from the list,” the Vetevendosje official and former minister said on Facebook.
“In a captured state, this can happen! Those are the last attempts of those who captured the state and those who served the captured state,” Haxhiu added.
CEC Spokesperson Elezi meanwhile said the commission’s Office for Registration of Political Parties will prepare recommendations for the approval or refusal of political entities and their candidates, based on the Judicial Council’s verification.
The verification comes after the Constitutional Court ruled in December last year that Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti’s government was illegitimate because it was voted in by parliament with a vote cast by Etem Arifi – an MP who received a prison sentence for corruption within the last three years.
“A person convicted of a criminal offence by a final court decision in the three last years cannot be a candidate for deputy or win a valid mandate in the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo,” the Constitutional Court said.