Sali Berisha

Prime Minister of Albania

(Albanian Presidential Web site, VOA, Albania.com)
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Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha was named Albania's prime minister on 3 September 2005, after his party's win in July 3 parliamentary polls. The party has formed a coalition with other groups, taking control of 80 of the 140 seats in the legislature. Berisha's cabinet was sworn in on 11 September 2005.

Born on October 15, 1944, in Tropoja, Berisha graduated from the University of Tirana, Faculty of Medicine in 1967. After he completed his advanced studies in Paris, he conducted a research programme on Hemodynamics. In 1968, he was elected a member of the European Committee for Research on Medical Sciences.

Berisha's political career started with the students' movement in December 1990. He became well known for his public criticism of the old system, and his insistence on the need for Albania's democratisation. In 1991, Berisha founded, and was elected leader of, the Democratic Party (DP). He was elected as a member of the parliament in 1991, 1992, 1997 and 2001.

Berisha was elected president of Albania on 9 April 1992. His administration tried to foster foreign investment, improve the country's economic situation and develop a more liberal and democratic government. Despite many reforms that took place, the administration was marred by widespread corruption and abuses.

In 1994, a referendum took place that would have given Berisha more power, but it was rejected by Albanian voters amid fears that he would become another dictator. Progress in the country was stalled in 1995, and resulted in declining public confidence in government institutions. Despite all the problems of his administration, Berisha was re-elected on 26 May 1996.

Soon afterwards, an economic crisis was spurred by the proliferation and collapse of several pyramid financial schemes. Many Albanians lost their entire lives' savings. The administration was accused of having taken part in these schemes and Berisha was forced to retire his position.

Taking up his new post as prime minister, Berisha has pledged to cut taxes and streamline the government, while saying that his first priority would be to ensure that the next elections -- municipal polls in 2006 -- are fair. He has promised to fight widespread corruption and poverty and integrate the country into international institutions.

Sali Berisha is married, with two children.

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