By Besar Likmeta and Artan Hoxha
The ruling majority’s candidate, Artan Hoxha, withdrew from the presidential race on Monday, just minutes before the MPs in parliament were about to vote him president.
“I cannot be part of this process anymore, which looks like it will cause a [political] storm,” Hoxha said in a statement.
“The Socialist opposition started using aggressively all kinds of slander and accusations, including blackmail,” Hoxha added.
Some Socialist MPs had hinted that Hoxha could have been a spy of Albania’s feared communist security service, the “Sigurimi,” and called for a background check from the secret service, SHISH. Balkan Insight cannot confirm such accusations, while Mr. Hoxha was not reachable for a comment.
He was nominated as president on Sunday, after talks on a consensual candidate between the ruling majority and the opposition failed.
Hoxha is the head of Albania’s Institute of Contemporary Studies, a Tirana based think tank. He previously served from 1992 till 1993 as Minister of Economic Cooperation, in the Democratic Party led government of former Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi.
Following Hoxha’s withdrawal, the head of the Democratic Party parliamentary group, Astrit Patozi, said in a short statement to the media that the party will nominate the current Minister of Interior, Bujar Nishani as a replacement.
Parliament is expected to reconvene for a vote on the new president in the afternoon. Albania failed to elect a president in the first three rounds of voting held in the past two weeks.
In the first three rounds parliament needed a two-thirds majority to elect the president, while in the fourth and fifth rounds only a simple majority is required.
The Democrats and their allies have 74 of the 140 seats in the assembly.