The ruling Democratic Party elevated Interior Minister Bujar Nishani to president over the objections of the Socialist Party.
By Southeast European Times -- 12/06/12
Albania's new president was chosen entirely by the ruling Democratic Party on Monday (June 11th), as the Socialist Party refused to participate in the fourth round of voting, further splintering the nation and casting doubt over its EU aspirations.
Bujar Nishani, the interior minister, was elected with 73 of 76 votes in the 140-member parliament. He was the third choice of the ruling Democrats. Xhezair Zaganjori had pulled his own name from consideration last week after failing to win the first three rounds of voting, and a replacement candidate, Artan Hoxha, withdrew before Monday's vote for unexplained reasons.
Nishani replaces President Bamir Topi, whose five-year term ends on July 24th.
Unlike previous rounds that required a three-fifths majority in parliament, Monday's vote required only a simple majority. Western nations had urged Albania, which has twice applied for EU membership, to unify behind a candidate in an early round of voting to help ease political tensions.
But Democrats and Socialists could not agree. The Socialists blocked the DP's attempt to push Zaganjori's candidacy through the parliament last week, but refused to nominate its own candidate. The SP said it was the DP's responsibility, as ruling party, to offer alternatives for discussion and debate.
SP leader Edi Rama told reporters that Nishani's victory is a blow to Albania's hopes of joining the EU.
"It is unbelievable that a minister turns into a president … at this historic, delicate moment," Rama said. "How could they pass on to a candidate who totally represents the Democratic Party?"
Former head of the Socialist Party and former Prime Minister Fatos Nano had publicly asked Rama to support him as its candidate. But Rama said that the future president should not be someone with a strong political background.
The EU has sought democratic reforms before it accepts Albania for membership.
"The role of the president in anchoring Albania's state institutions in independence and in helping the country unite its efforts will be of crucial importance for Albania to successfully address the challenges it faces on its path towards the European Union," the EU's ambassador to Albania, Ettore Sequi, said in a statement.