Kosovo swears in female president


Atifete Jahjaga, a police commander and Kosovo's new female president has ended weeks of political turmoil.

A 36-year-old woman police commander, Atifete Jahjaga, was on Thursday sworn in as Kosovo's new president, ending weeks of political crisis.

"I never thought until yesterday that I would take a high political office, but I was ready to serve my country," Jahjaga said after taking the oath of office.

A virtual political unknown, Jahjaga , who has never been a member of any political party because of her police role , pledged to work towards securing Kosovo's much coveted membership in the European Union.

"The ideal of all Kosovo is membership in the EU and a permanent friendship with the United States. I believe and I am convinced our dreams will come true," she said in her first speech to the parliament immediatelly after the vote.

Jahjaga's election ended a period of political turmoil after Kosovo's top court ruled last week that the previous presidential election of Behgjet Pacolli was unconstitutional.

The deadlock threatend to send the country again to snap polls, before the government and the leading opposition party reached consensus on Jahjaga's candidacy late Wednesday.

The crisis also threatened to hamper EU-brokered talks between Belgrade and Pristina aimed at resolving practical issues that remain after Kosovo unilaterally proclaimed independence from Serbia in February 2008.

Jahjaga said she would strive to secure a better future for Kosovo which is still recovering from the 1998-99 conflict with Serbia.

"Our two neighbouring countries have been forced to share a past and will be forced to share a future. As we cannot change the past, we will a build a future learning from past mistakes," she said.

She pledged for the talks to continue and be "successful," adding that "when they end, peace and stability will return to the region."

Jahjaga was elected with 80 votes of the 100 lawmakers present in the 120-seat parliament.

The vote was boycotted by the opposition Self-determination group, who had walked out from the session warning that the new president would only "listen to the orders and be in service" of Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's government.

Jahjaga was elected after Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and its coalition partner, New Kosovo Alliance (AKR), reached an agreement with the leading opposition party, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK).

The agreement also foresees constitutional and election reforms, which will lead to an early presidential election no later then six months after the constitutional changes, and general elections no later then 18 months after the electoral system reform.

This means that in effect Kosovo voters will later this year directly elect their president. New parliamentary elections should be organised in 2013, along with the regular local polls.

Jahjaga said she was committed to the constitutional and election reforms, expressing hope that "we will achieve all our goals to benefit the citizens of my country."

Kosovo's international image has also been significantly weakened after the Council of Europe adopted a report linking Thaci and other high-ranking former ethnic Albanian guerrillas to organ trafficking and organised crime in the aftermath of the 1999 war.

But Jahjaga , former top commander of the Kosovo police, built up after the war under international supervision , vowed to actively engage to lead Kosovo to the membership in the United Nations and further recognitions.

"We will prove to ourselves and to the world that all conditions exist for every country to recognise independent Kosovo as an irreversible reality, as a factor of peace and stability," she said.

Jahjaga's candidacy was strongly supported by Western diplomats who have pressured Kosovo's political parties to reach a deal to avoid new snap elections after the latest polls in December were marred by allegations of fraud.

Source: AFP