Albanian parliament elects Ilir Meta as new president

Albanian parliament elects Ilir Meta as new president
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje April 30, 2017

The Albanian parliament elected its speaker Ilir Meta as the country’s new president on April 28, after repeated failures to appoint a new president amid a long-standing opposition boycott. 

Meta was elected without the presence of the opposition MPs, which have refused to take part in the assembly’s work since February, as they are pressing for a caretaker government to be formed ahead of the June 18 general election. This could raise questions about his legitimacy. 

Meta will replace Bujar Nishani, a candidate from the Democratic Party (DP), which is now in opposition. He will take over when Nishani’s five year mandate expires this summer. 

Albania is a parliamentary republic, and the role of the president is largely ceremonial. 

87 members of the 140-seat parliament voted for Meta in a closed-door voting process, while two were against. Meta was elected in the fourth round of voting, news agency ATA reported.

Albania's parliament elects the president in five rounds. In the first three rounds, the winner must secure at least 84 votes. In the fourth, a simple majority is required. 

The nomination of Meta, who came from the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI), was supported by the governing Socialist Party, of which LSI is a junior partner. His nomination was supported by 23 MPs, three more than the required 20.

In the first attempt on April 19, the Albanian parliament failed to elect a new president as no candidates were nominated. The lack of candidates came as no surprise because the ruling majority decided against nominating anyone, in an attempt to reach a deal with the opposition DP on a consensus candidate. It later became clear that the DP would not participate in the election of the president despite this concession.

Meta (48), an economist, will take office on July 24. On April 29, he resigned as leader of the LSI following his nomination for president, and Petrit Vasili will replace him as new party’s head.

Following his appointment, Meta said that the opposition should take responsibility and be cooperative with the aim of resolving the political crisis in the country, news agency ATA reported on April 30. In addition to blocking the work of the parliament, the DP is also threatening to boycott the June election.

Meta served as prime minister from 1999 to 2002, when he was a member of the Socialist Party, minister of foreign affairs in the period 2002-2003 and again in 2009-2010. He was also deputy prime minister and minister of economy and foreign affairs.

Meta has served as speaker of the parliament since 2013. In 2004 he founded the small LSI party and was its leader until his nomination for president.

Meta has been engaged in politics since 1990, when he was an active participant in the student movement against the communist regime in Albanian, which brought pluralism in the country.

In 2011, Meta was involved in a video corruption scandal, when he was deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. The video allegedly revealed Meta discussing corrupt deals and bribes. The video appeared to show him asking to former economy minister Dritan Prifti to intervene over a hydropower plant concession tender.

Prifti distributed the video and accused Meta of involvement in corrupt activities. Following the release of the video, Meta resigned as deputy prime minister. However, he said the allegations were politically motivated

In 2012, the Supreme Court in Albania found Meta to be innocent of corruption in this case, due to lack of evidence, and he smoothly continued his political career.