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Albania’s chief of defense chosen as President

On June 4, Albania’s parliament has voted for chief of defense Bajram Begaj to become its new president. With 78 votes in favour in the 140-seat parliament, Begaj will now hold the largely ceremonial position for five years.

Four rounds needed

In the first three rounds, a presidential candidate needs three-fifths of the votes in parliament to be elected. In subsequent rounds, a simple majority is sufficient. Albania’s PM Edi Rama of the Socialist Party already said to patiently await the fourth round in which he would more easily secure a majority. He had no intention of negotiating with political opposition to elect a President in earlier rounds, to the frustration of these other political factions. Therefore, these mostly boycotted the fourth-round vote.

PM Rama reacts delighted

Expectations were that Rama preferred a more loyal President – as the position was formerly filled by Ilir Meta, with whom Rama had a troublesome relationship. This even led up to a constitutional court case as Rama accused Meta of violating the constitution through election interference. “We gave Albania a normal president, an indisputable personality in his integrity, humanity and commitment to the country and its people,” Rama said in reaction to Begaj’s election. 

Begaj has been chief of staff in Albania’s army since 2020. Before, he has fulfilled several roles in the army’s medical divisions. The EU and the U.S. congratulated Begaj – EU’s foreign policy chief Borrell said to “look forward to working together for a prosperous, secure and solid EU-#Albania relationship, as members of one European family”. These comments will be tested in the upcoming time, as Albania still eagerly anticipates EU membership. 

It is expected that the 55-year old Begaj will have a better relationship with Rama’s socialist government than his predecessor. He is Albania’s eighth President, and the third coming from military ranks. He will be inaugurated on July 24.

Sources: Voice of America Reuters Balkan Insight I Balkan Insight II 

Photo: NHC