Coronavirus row helps topple Kosovo government

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The ruling coalition implodes over differences on how to fight the pandemic, with no clear way forward.

BBC | Europe

Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti delivers a speech during a parliament session in Pristina, Kosovo February 3, 2020.Image copyright Reuters Image caption Prime Minister Albin Kurti has been at odds with his coalition partners

The government of Kosovo has collapsed after a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Albin Kurti was backed by a majority of MPs.

The vote was brought by a junior coalition partner angered by Mr Kurti's approach to tackling the coronavirus outbreak.

It comes only two months after the government was sworn in.

It is not clear how the political impasse will be resolved as elections cannot be held because of the pandemic.

Doctors have warned that without clear direction, the disease could overwhelm Kosovo's underfunded health system.

The Balkan country has at least 70 confirmed cases and one death from Covid-19 - the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Correspondents say the political crisis has angered citizens who want the country's leaders to focus on measures combating the spread of the virus.

With street protests banned because of a lockdown, residents in the capital Pristina have been banging pots and pans from their balconies to vent their frustration at the squabbling.

One protester who managed to circumvent security outside parliament on Wednesday raised a banned at the entrance that read: "The most dangerous pandemic in Kosovo is politics. Shame!"

The vote of no confidence was initiated by the junior partner in Mr Kurti's coalition, the centre-right LDK (Democratic League) party.

The LDK has been at loggerheads with Mr Kurti for several weeks but the final straw came when the prime minister sacked LDK minister Agim Veliu. Mr Veliu had supported calls by President Hashim Thaci for a state of emergency to combat the coronavirus. Mr Kurti insisted that such a move was not justified.

More than 80 MPs in the 120-member assembly backed the vote after nearly 12 hours of debate.

Analysts say it is unlikely that Mr Kurti's party will try to form a new government.

Last October's general election was the fourth since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Serbia does not recognise the country and, with Russian support, has blocked it from becoming a member of the UN and other international bodies.

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Media captionThe conflict that won't go away: BBC correspondents explain the Kosovo war two decades on

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