The junior partner in Kosovo's ruling coalition said Saturday it was quitting the government of Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, a day after an early election was called for February.
"Starting from Monday, October 18, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) withdraws from the ruling coalition, in other words from the Kosovo government," the party said in a statement, without providing further details.
Kosovo now has eight days to pull together a caretaker government or hold elections within 45 days after that. The vote will mark the first general elections since Kosovo proclaimed its independence from Serbia in February 2008.
The LDK, the party of former Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu, held the post of deputy prime minister and five ministerial posts, including foreign minister, in the 12-member cabinet. With the departure of the party, the government no longer has a parliamentary majority.
Talks with Serbia delayed
The announcement came a day after Kosovo's interim President Jakup Krasniqi called an early election for February 13, following the surprise resignation of Sejdiu in late September after the constitutional court ruled he could not lead the LDK while in office.
Thaci's PDK party said the LDK's decision could send the country into a political crisis. "After this decision we have new circumstances and an institutional crisis," deputy PDK leader Enver Hoxhaj said, reading a party statement. "Now, emergency constitutional and political solutions are needed for our country."
The breakdown of the coalition will delay European Union-sponsored talks with Serbia, which refuses to recognize the independence of its former southern province. The news also puts the privatization of several important state-owned companies on hold, including that of the state-owned telecoms firm, a move which the LDK opposes.
Kosovo is one of the poorest countries in Europe, with an unemployment rate of more than 45 percent. The government was counting on the privatization to bring in some foreign investment.
Author: Martin Kuebler (AFP, Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Andreas Illmer