Former Kosovo PM excluded from running in Feb. 14 election

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Election authorities in Kosovo on Tuesday excluded a former prime minister from running in the country's early parliamentary election next month due to his sentencing for a crime in the last three years.

The Central Election Commission and the Election Complaints and Appeals Panel said the conviction made former Prime Minister Albin Kurti, who leads the Self-Determination Movement, or Vetevendosje! party, ineligible as a candidate under Kosovo law.

The commission and panel also ruled against other potential candidates from Vetevendosje! and at least two more political parties who received criminal sentences within the last three years.

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

Vetevendosje! said it would appeal the decision to Kosovo's Supreme Court. The party is favored to win the most votes in the Feb. 14 election, with Kurti expected to regain the post of prime minister. When Kurti served as prime minister for 50 days last year, no one challenged his eligibility.

The election was scheduled after the Constitutional Court rendered invalid a vote by a sentenced lawmaker who helped confirm a Cabinet named in June after Kurti was fired from the post. Approval of new government requires at least 61 votes in the 120-seat parliament.

After Kosovo’s 1998-1999 war ended with a 78-day NATO air campaign in June 1999, Pristina declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia has not recognized that.