Albania’s chief of defence set to become next president

Albania’s chief of defence set to become next president
Major General Bajram Begaj at a meeting with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama on June 3. / Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama via Facebook
By bne IntelliNews June 4, 2022

Albania’s ruling Socialist Party has picked Major General Bajram Begaj, the chief of defence, to be the country’s new president, Prime Minister Edi Rama announced on June 3. 

Albania’s president is elected by the parliament. After the initial three rounds in which the votes of three-fifths of MPs are required failed, in the fourth round the president can be appointed by a majority of MPs in the parliament. This means the Socialists have enough votes to appoint their choice of candidate. 

Speaking outside the Socialist Party headquarters on June 3, Rama said party officials had discussed 26 potential candidates before picking Begaj. 

Answering a journalist question on why the Socialists picked Begaj, Rama said: “Because he is the example of that normalcy, of that citizenship, of that sense of service to the country and to the people of this country for which that office has an urgent need.”

The vote on Begaj’s appointment is due to take place on the evening of June 4. 

Enkelejd Alibeaj, the leader of the opposition Democratic Party’s parliamentary group, said on June 3 that the Democrats will not take part in the vote. He accused the Socialists of going back on their promise to involve the opposition in the selection of the next president. 

The Democratic Party said in a statement on Facebook that the Socialists’ candidate for president had been “appointed by the state property mafia”. 

“The Democratic Party parliamentary group had warned that Edi Rama has faked his promises for a consensual and inclusive president. Not justifying this farce warned by us, even with a vote against, is the duty of every opposition MP,” the party said. 

Albania's president is mainly a ceremonial post, but does have the power to hold up legislation and appoints the head of the secret service and the prosecutor general.

Begaj will replace Albania’s current President Ilir Meta, who was appointed in 2017 with the backing of the Socialists and their then coalition partner the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI). Since then, relations between the Socialists and LSI have deteriorated, and Meta has become a strong critic of Rama’s government.