LAWMAKERS in Kosovo have wrestled for control of parliament, as it sat for the first time since an inconclusive June election triggered a constitutional crisis unprecedented in the young state's short history.
An opposition bloc, supported by deputies representing some of Kosovo's ethnic minorities, elected the leader of the largest opposition party as speaker of parliament, but only after lawmakers from the party of outgoing Prime Minister Hashim Thaci declared the session adjourned and walked out.
The chaotic scene spoke to a deepening crisis over who will rule the impoverished country of 1.7 million people for the next four years.
Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) emerged from the election as the biggest party with 30 per cent of votes. But three opposition parties have united in a bid to outmanoeuvre the PDK and thwart Mr Thaci's bid for a third consecutive term as prime minister.
The election of Isa Mustafa, leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), as speaker suggested the party may have the makings of a working majority, although the PDK looked certain to declare his election illegitimate.
Outgoing deputy prime minister Hajredin Kuci, a member of the PDK, said: "The government of Kosovo will send this issue today to the constitutional court."
The opposition bloc has so far failed to bring on board a fourth party - Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) - and it was unclear whether the alliance would settle instead for the support of the ethnic minorities.
They accused Mr Thaci's administration of corruption, nepotism and failure to press economic reforms - accusations he denies.
All parties seek a closer integration with the EU but some take a harder line on negotiations with Serbia, a process crucial to both countries' hopes of one day joining the bloc.
Vetevendosje has also called for a halt to the sale of big state enterprises as a condition of joining the government.
Kosovo's president should nominate a candidate for prime minister.