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Former Kosovo Liberation Army commander Fatmir Limaj and ex-KLA secretary Jakup Krasniqi have established a new political force to challenge the ruling Kosovo Democratic Party.
Limaj and Krasniqi’s Initiative for Kosovo (Nisma per Kosoven) party was launched on Friday at an inaugural ceremony held in the Kosovo capital, Pristina, where its founders were applauded by more than 100 supporters.
“What brings us together is a vision and courage - the courage to hope and the hope for changes,” said Limaj.
“A new chapter is opening for us. The Initiative for Kosovo is based on principles and values. A new kind of politics will be promoted based on quality, leadership and professionalism,” he said.
Ex-guerrilla commander Limaj is a former minister in the government led by the current Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci, and was one of his closest allies.
But his relationship to his former boss in the governing Kosovo Democratic Party, PDK, started to crumble in November 2012, when the EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo (EULEX) raised an indictment over alleged organized crime and corruption against Limaj.
EULEX recently raised a second indictment for corruption-related charges against Limaj and four others.
In a sign of his split with Thaci, Limaj publically supported a small party called the Civic Initiative for Malisheva at the last local polls in November 2013.
Although Limaj made no direct attack on Thaci’s government at his new party’s launch, he harshly criticized the way Kosovo is being governed.
“We have to tell the truth. Kosovo is not in a good way. The people of Kosovo are tired. They are tired of illusions, demagogy, false promises, endless waiting and insecurity about the future,” he said.
Limaj’s partner Krasniqi, the current chairman of Kosovo’s parliament, left Thaci’s PDK in February last year, and last month criticized what he called its “lack of democracy”.
“The authoritarian way [of running] political parties was transferred to state institutions and has become the main obstacle for a well-functioning Kosovo,” Krasniqi said.
“Authoritarianism, despotism, tyranny and all other non-democratic ways of functioning have blocked aspirations for the functioning of a state based on the principles of justice,” he said.
Unlike other existing parties which have one leader, the Initiative for Kosovo will be led by both men.
Once registered, it will be the 62nd officially-approved political party in Kosovo.
In the Vellusha area of Prishtina, men in beards and women in full veil are a common sight, as hard-line Muslims stake a claim to part of the Kosovo capital.