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Kosovo: Presidential Elections Declared Invalid

(Mar. 30, 2011) On February 22, 2011, Behgjet Pacolli was elected the President of Kosovo by the legislature of that Balkan country, but the election was recently declared unconstitutional by the Kosovo Supreme Court. (Fatos Bytyci, Kosovo President Election Was Illegal, Court Rules, REUTERS (Mar. 28, 2011).) Pacolli is a Swiss businessman of Albanian origin and is known as the head of the Mabetex Company, which was the leading contractor for the restoration of the Kremlin in Moscow, a project connected to numerous corruption scandals. (Sharon LaFraniere, Yeltsin Linked to Bribe Scheme, THE WASHINGTON POST, Sept. 8, 1999, at A1).) Pacolli has dual Kosovar-Swiss citizenship. (Corinne Deloy, Presidential Election in Kosovo, 22th [sic] February 2011, EUROPEAN ELECTIONS MONITOR (Feb. 22, 2011).)

According to articles 65 and 86 of the Kosovo Constitution, the President of Kosovo is to be elected for a five-year term by two-thirds of the 120-member Assembly. If no candidate receives two-thirds of the legislative votes in two rounds of elections, a third ballot takes place between the two candidates who received the highest number of votes on the second ballot, and the candidate who receives a simple majority of the votes in the third round is elected President. (Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo of Apr. 8, 2008, Kosovo Constitutional Commission website (last visited Mar. 28, 2011).) The President can be reelected for one term and is accorded the exercise of substantial powers over all three branches of government and the military by the Constitution. (Id. art. 84.)

President Pacolli was unable to win the required 80 legislative votes in the first two rounds of the election. (Deloy, supra.) Because of the voting irregularities, the opposition parties requested that the Kosovo Supreme Court evaluate the elections and declare them invalid. As reported by Reuters, on March 28, 2011, Kosovo's highest court ruled that the February election of the President was unconstitutional. (Bytyci, supra.) The Court did not comment on the decision, except to state that the ruling was made by the majority of the judges and that two judges expressed their concurring opinions. (Election of Mabetex Head Pacolli as President of Kosovo Is Unconstitutional [in Russian], GAZETA.RU. (Mar. 28, 2011).)

It is unclear whether the incumbent President will resign or if another round of voting will be held in the Assembly. (REUTERS, supra.) If the election crisis continues and the President is not elected in three parliamentary votes, the Assembly will be dissolved, and new parliamentary elections will take place. (Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo, art. 86(6), supra.)