With the support of the center-left majority, the speaker of Albania’s parliament, former premier Ilir Meta, was elected President of Albania on Friday amid an opposition boycott.
By Besar Likmeta
Ilir Meta, leader of Albania’s junior ruling party, the Socialist Movement for Integration, LSI, was voted in as President of Albania on Friday amid an opposition boycott.
Meta received 87 votes in favour and two against in the 140-seat assembly, becoming the seventh President of Albania since the Stalinist Communist regime collapsed in 1990.
He was elected head of state in the fourth round of voting, after Prime Minister Edi Rama and his Socialist Party put their weight behind his candidacy, which was announced on Thursday.
In the three previous rounds, the ruling majority had failed to nominate a candidate, in the hope that the centre-right opposition Democratic Party might be persuaded to end up its month-long boycott of parliament and participate in the proceedings.
Meta, 48, started his political career as a Socialist Party MP in 1992 at the age of 23 and has been continuously present in the assembly since then.
Between 1999 and 2002 he served as prime minister. In 2003, he split from the Socialists to form the Socialist Movement for Integration, which won 8.4 per cent of the votes in the 2005 election and five seats in parliament.
In the 2009 elections, the LSI won only 4.7 per cent of the vote and four seats. However, by allying with the Democratic Party from the opposite end of the political spectrum it became a kingmaker in the new coalition government in which Meta served as foreign minister and deputy premier.
Meta’s cooperation with Democrats ended in April 2013 when he switched sides to join Rama’s Socialists ahead of the June 2013 election, which they won by a landslide. Following the election, he was elected speaker of parliament.
Meta’s long career in politics has been dotted with allegations of corruption, abuse of power and voter fraud. In 2011, he was indicted on corruption charges after he appeared in a secretly filmed video, apparently discussing bribes with former economy minister Dritan Prifti.
The publication of the video led to anti-government riots in Tirana on January 21 2011. Four people were then killed after the Republican Guard opened fire on the demonstrators.
However, the Supreme Court early in 2012 cleared Meta of all the charges, citing a lack of evidence and declaring the video had been tampered with.
In 2015, a BIRN investigation alleged he was one of the Albanian officials believed to have benefitted in bribes from the debt collection firm Debt Advisory International, whose owner, Kastriot Ismailaj, is currently on trial for fraud.
Meta has always denied wrong doing and has maintained the accusations have been political in nature.