Kosovo parliament vote on border deal halted by tear gas

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Opposition lawmakers throw a tear gas canister disrupting a parliamentary session in Kosovo capital Pristina on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. Kosovo's Parliament, has temporarily suspended its session after tear gas disrupted the vote on a border demarcation deal with Montenegro. (AP)
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Kosovo opposition politicians release tear gas in parliament to obstruct a session in Pristina, Kosovo March 21, 2018. (REUTERS)
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Kosovo police officers wear gas masks as opposition lawmakers cover their faces after releasing a tear gas canister disrupting a parliamentary session in Kosovo capital Pristina on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. (AP)
Updated 21 March 2018
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Kosovo parliament vote on border deal halted by tear gas

PRISTINA: Lawmakers in Kosovo approved a contentious and long-pending border demarcation deal with Montenegro Wednesday despite the opposition's use of tear gas to prevent a vote.
The 120-seat parliament voted 80-11 to endorse the deal, ensuring its passage with the minimum two-thirds support required.
The European Union has set the border agreement as a precondition for Kosovo's citizens to travel without visas in Europe's the Schengen travel zone
Kosovo Assembly Speaker Kadri Veseli said he was hopeful the EU would follow through and let Kosovars enjoy visa-free, as citizens of other Balkan region countries already do.
The opposition Self-Determination party says Kosovo loses 8,200 hectares (20,000 acres) of its territory under the agreement, which was reached in August 2015. The previous government and international experts deny that.
Opposition leader Albin Kurti complained that most of the party's lawmakers were barred from the vote or taken away by police for questioning after the tear gas was set off in the Kosovo Assembly.
"Today, 80 lawmakers joined the treason of President (Hashim) Thaci, joined the violation of Kosovo's Constitution and its territorial integrity," Kurti said.
At least two lawmakers were injured. Amid the chaos, the session failed four consecutive times to call the vote, but Speaker Kadri Veseli insisted it would take place.
"Today, the trauma of the Montenegro border demarcation will end. The vote will be held today," he said.
Police entered parliament and forced out a small group of opposition lawmakers, who had refused to leave since the morning. Eight of them were barred from taking part in the session and seven were taken to a police station for questioning.
It wasn't clear if they were the same lawmakers who were barred from parliament.
Police also searched every person entering the chamber.
The opposition party, now divided into two groups because of internal frictions, has used tear gas and similar tactics to disrupt parliament over the past three years.
The collapse of votes for the border demarcation agreement and another proposal seeking to give more rights to the ethnic Serb minority toppled the previous government and took the country to an early election last year.
Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said there were enough votes to pass the deal. But the two-thirds threshold required defections from the opposition ranks. One opposition lawmaker joined a governing majority party.
President Hashim Thaci, who signed the deal in 2015 when he was foreign minister, will decree the border agreement as the final step.
Representatives of western powers denounced the use of tear gas and urged the lawmakers to hold the vote in favor of the deal.
"This is really great news. Congratulations Kosovo. Kosovo did the right thing," U.S. Ambassador Greg Delawie said after the vote.
Montenegro, which has approved the deal, recognizes Kosovo's 2008 independence from Serbia, which Belgrade still rejects.


India’s Parliament rejects no confidence motion against Modi

Updated 21 July 2018
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India’s Parliament rejects no confidence motion against Modi

  • After a marathon 12 hours of debate more than 60 percent of the lower house voted in the BJP’s favor
  • The opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi crossed the chamber during debate to give an awkward embrace to a seated and clearly surprised Modi

NEW DELHI: India’s ruling party sailed through a confidence vote in a theatrical parliamentary session which saw a startled Prime Minister Narendra Modi embraced by his chief political foe.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in no danger of losing its first confidence motion since taking power four years ago, which was prompted by a minor party walking out of the governing coalition.
After a marathon 12 hours of debate, more than 60 percent of the lower house voted in the BJP’s favor, but the vote was overshadowed by the theatrics of bitter Modi rival Rahul Gandhi.
The opposition Congress party leader crossed the chamber during debate to give an awkward embrace to a seated and clearly surprised Modi.
“You can abuse me and call me names but I don’t have any hatred toward you,” Gandhi said to cheers from Congress lawmakers just before he hugged his rival.
After gathering his wits, Modi called Gandhi again to shake hands and pat his back, and the opposition leader winked mischieviously at Congress colleagues after returning to his seat.
Congress later voted against Modi’s government despite the brief bonhomie on the parliament floor.
The hug has since gone viral on social media and endlessly dissected non-stop on India’s cable TV channels and went viral on social media, with some praising Gandhi’s apparent gesture of goodwill.
“Earlier opposition parties... always managed to transcend rivalry at certain crucial moments,” said independent analyst Shiv Vishwanathan in comments to the Hindustan.
“Today, Rahul Gandhi captured that history.”
But Modi was less convinced of Gandhi’s sincerity, later telling parliament he was confused by Gandhi’s “childish” behavior.
Modi and Gandhi’s running war of words has escalated since polls showed a decline in the BJP’s popularity, fanning hopes of an opposition comeback in next year’s elections after a Congress rout in 2014.