Albania: the new president is sworn in against a backdrop of political division

Albania: the new president is sworn in against a backdrop of political division

Albania’s new president, Bajram Begaj, was sworn in on Sunday (July 24) and called on the country’s political parties to cooperate on key issues for the future, including the rule of law.

Mr. Begaj is a retired military officer who had a long career in the Albanian army before stepping down as chief of general staff to accept the role of president. Politically independent, he was nominated by the ruling Socialist Party and won 78 votes out of 140 seats.

In Albania, the president has a largely symbolic role and is elected by parliament.

“I will be a servant of our people, a fierce collaborator of national unity. I will be a collaborator and a supporter of the communication, initiatives and ideas that move our society forward”said in his speech the ninth president since the fall of communism.

He added that dialogue and cooperation between political forces, respect for media freedom, respect and acceptance of debate are necessary for the progress of the country.

“Our common interest remains the consolidation of institutions that have the responsibility to protect and promote the interests of Albanians wherever they are”he added.

Before taking the official oath, outgoing President Ilir Meta received Mr. Begaj as President.

Mr Meta’s five-year term has been marked by disruption, with the Socialist Party attempting to impeach him on more than one occasion, before removing him from office in June 2021.

A decision on his dismissal was then requested from the Constitutional Court. Authorities claimed the president’s comments and actions during the 2021 election campaign violated various laws and incited violence.

The Constitutional Court rejected all the claims, saying it had found no evidence that the laws were violated.

Opening of negotiations for EU membership

Albania officially opened negotiations for membership of the European Union (EU) on Tuesday (July 19) at a ceremony in Brussels at which no representatives of opposition parties were present.

Prime Minister Edi Rama said ironically that this was due to the fact that he did not know who the opposition was, due to the division of the Democratic Party into two factions, one led by Enkelejd Alibeaj and the other by former Prime Minister and President Sali Berisha.

Both claim to be the legitimate leader of the centre-right party.

Mr Berisha was declared persona non grata by the UK last week, a year after the US made the same designation.

The EU’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, welcomed his inauguration on the occasion of this “historic step on its path to the EU. »

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