Albanian President harshly attacks Prime Minister ahead of Sunday polls
The Albanian president immersed himself in the country’s parliamentary election campaign on Wednesday, accusing the left-wing government of leading a “kleptocratic regime” and flouting its response to the pandemic.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Ilir Meta also said he would step down if Prime Minister Edi Rama’s socialists – who lead the main opposition conservatives in opinion polls – win Sunday’s vote.
Meta’s post is largely ceremonial, with some powers over matters relating to justice and the military. His role is also generally seen as apolitical and the president is believed to be a symbol of the country’s unity. But he often clashed with the government of Rama.
“These are decisive elections which will undoubtedly consolidate the European future of Albania, which is primarily at stake because of the current prime minister,” Meta told the PA. He then accused Rama of leading a “kleptocratic regime” and “a horrible copy” of the former communist dictatorship of Albania.
Sunday’s vote will be decisive for the election of the new government with which the European Union is expected to start accession negotiations – a long-awaited process in Tirana.
Irregularities marred previous elections in post-communist Albania and electoral tensions are high. Opposition conservatives have boycotted parliament for two years to protest alleged government corruption.
Meta accused Rama of concentrating all legislative, administrative and judicial powers in his hands.
Meta claimed that Rama’s alleged control over the judiciary took place despite substantial reforms undertaken five years ago with direct US and EU assistance – aimed at removing corrupt judges and prosecutors .
The president also accused Rama of mismanaging the COVID-19 pandemic. Albania has officially recorded around 2,350 deaths from COVID-19.
Socialists did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Meta’s comments.
Meta began his political career with the Socialist Party, but then left it to form the smaller Left Socialist Movement for Integration, or LSI. In 2017, when he was elected president for a five-year term, he left the leadership of LSI to his wife.
In his interview, Meta said that if Rama’s socialists “democratically” won a majority in the 140-seat parliament, he would resign.