Avdullah Hoti: Kosovo's new PM emerges from the shadows

by Ismet HAJDARI
Avdullah Hoti addresses media in Pristina after being elected new prime minister at the head of a centre-right administration to draw a line under months of political turmoil

After a decade in the shadow of his political mentor, the centre-right economics professor Avdullah Hoti was named Kosovo's Prime Minister Wednesday, taking charge of Europe's youngest democracy after months of political chaos.

The bespectacled 44-year-old rose to power after his LDK party quit their alliance with left-wing reformer Albin Kurti, who lasted less than two months in power.

The LDK went on to cobble together a new coalition, which was approved in parliament by a razor-thin majority.

"We are a nation that needs a government that serves (the people)," Hoti, a former finance minister, told the assembly before they endorsed his new cabinet.

Hoti's LDK initially teamed up with Kurti after coming in second place in October elections, with a mandate to oust an old guard that has run Kosovo since its independence from Serbia in 2008.

But the union fell apart after the LDK held a no-confidence motion against Kurti in March, in part because of disagreements on policies towards Serbia.

Kurti demanded elections but the Constitutional Court ruled that a new government could be formed without a vote, giving Hoti a path to the premiership.

"It is time to unite for the future of the country and our citizens," Hoti wrote on Facebook after the ruling.

"Together with our strategic friends, the United States and the European Union, we will work diligently to realise our aspirations for Euro-Atlantic integration."

- 'Mustafa's shadow' -

An economics lecturer at the University of Pristina, Hoti has for years followed in the footsteps of Isa Mustafa, the powerful leader of the LDK, one of Kosovo's oldest parties.

When Mustafa was mayor of Pristina, Hoti served as his advisor and then as his deputy.

As Mustafa rose up the political ranks to take the premiership in 2014, Hoti followed, becoming his Finance Minister.

Local media have even referred to Hoti as "Mustafa's shadow".

With a calm, low-pitched voice and academic demeanour, Hoti has been direct about his willingness to take on Kosovo's most sensitive issues, such as talks with former war foe Serbia that have dragged on for years.

He has also vowed to tackle corruption, crime and soaring poverty in Kosovo, one of Europe's least developed economies, and further dreams of someday joining the European Union.

But his party has been criticised for its move to team up politicians from Kosovo's "old guard" after breaking ties with Kurti.

The new coalition includes the party led by former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, one of several ex-rebel leaders who have been dominating Kosovo politics for over a decade.

Avdullah Hoti addresses media in Pristina after being elected new prime minister at the head of a centre-right administration to draw a line under months of political turmoil