Kosovo court orders President to step down

Over 1 candidate for the presidency is required for an election to be valid.

Last Updated: Mar 31, 2011, 11:47 AM IST

Pristina: Kosovo President Behgjet Pacolli was ordered to vacate his post on Wednesday, with the Constitutional Court ruling that his election violated the country`s charter since he was the only candidate.

The legislature will hold a new session and present at least two presidential candidates. If no candidate is elected by the third round of the vote, then Parliament must be dissolved and a new general election called.

The nine-member court said in its ruling the February 22 vote in the Parliament giving Pacolli the presidency "was unconstitutional and shall no longer be in force”.

The court said more than one candidate for the presidency was required for an election to be valid and at least two-thirds of parliament`s 120 lawmakers had to be present. Only 67 lawmakers were present at the vote, because most opposition members walked out in protest over the nomination.

The presidency is largely a ceremonial post, with most powers residing in the Prime Minister`s office, but the President can dissolve Parliament.

Hours before receiving the court ruling, Pacolli said he would run for office again.

"If there is space to be nominated again, then I will run," Pacolli said.

Pacolli`s party is part of the governing coalition led by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, who said he wants "a quick solution in Parliament" next week.

Kosovo, a tiny landlocked Balkan nation of around 2 million people, gained independence in 2008 when it unilaterally seceded from Serbia. Pacolli, a 59-year-old multimillionaire businessman, was the country`s second president.

Parliamentary Speaker Jakup Krasniqi will take over as acting president. Krasniqi also temporarily replaced Pacolli`s predecessor, Fatmir Sejdiu, who was forced to resign after the same court found he violated the Constitution by holding the post of President and chair of his political party at the same time.

Pacolli said he advised his party members to remain in the coalition, saying the country cannot afford a political rift in what he said was "a very delicate moment”.

"We have a problem with Kosovo`s image, we have an economic problem," Pacolli said. "Really, we don`t need any crisis at this moment."

Kosovo`s leaders were dealt a severe blow after a European investigator accused Thaci and other former rebels of trafficking human organs and leading a mafia-like organisation.

Kosovo and Serbia are holding a series of meetings supervised by the European Union that are aimed at overcoming their disputes. Serbia has rejected Kosovo`s independence declaration and led a campaign to press other nations not to recognise Kosovo.

Bureau Report