Kosovo court bars ex-prime minister from running in election

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo’s Supreme Court barred a former prime minister Friday from running in the country’s early parliamentary election next month because he was sentenced for a crime in the last three years.

The Court ruled on a challenge by Kosovo’s Vetevendosje! party, or Self-Determination Movement, to election authorities rejecting the candidacy of former Prime Minister Albin Kurti, the party’s leader.

Kurti and other Vetevendosje! lawmakers were sentenced in 2018 for using tear gas and other violent acts to disrupt parliament during votes on a border deal with Montenegro and on an association for the ethnic Serb-dominated areas in Kosovo.

Kosovo law disqualifies candidates with criminal sentences in the previous three years. No one challenged Kurti on that basis when he served as prime minister for 50 days last year, but the country’s Central Election Commission and the Election Complaints and Appeals Panel said this week that he could not run in the parliamentary election set for Feb. 14.

The commission and panel ruled against five Vetevendosje! candidates, but the court upheld the decisions only for Kurti and two others.

Vetevendosje! is favored to win the most votes in the upcoming election, which would have put Kurti in position to regain the prime minister’s post and to serve for a longer period.

The Feb. 14 election was scheduled after Kosovo’s Constitutional Court rendered invalid a vote by a sentenced lawmaker who helped confirm a Cabinet named in June after Kurti was removed as prime minister.

Kosovo is one of Europe’s youngest countries. It declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a decade after a 1998-1999 war between separatist rebels and Serb forces. The war ended in June 1999 after a 78-day NATO air campaign to drive the Serb troops out.

Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s independence.

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