Albania’s parliament on Saturday elected a top military official as the country’s new president after no candidates were nominated in three rounds of voting.
General-Major Bajram Begaj won the post after the 140-seat Parliament voted 78 in favor, four against and one abstained.The governing left-wing Socialist Party nominated and voted for Begaj, 55, after failing to reach a compromise with the opposition on a candidate to replace President Ilir Meta, and no independent candidate was nominated.
Most of the opposition boycotted the voting.
Begaj is post-communist Albania’s eighth president and the third from the military ranks. The five-year presidency has a largely ceremonial role and the chosen candidate is expected to stand above partisan divisions. The president holds some authority over the judiciary and the armed forces and is limited to two terms.
Begaj was elected among six candidates, according to Socialists’ leader and Prime Minister Edi Rama, adding that no candidates of the governing majority were taken into consideration.
“We gave Albania a normal president, an indisputable personality in his integrity, humanity and commitment for the country and its people,” Rama said.
Begaj was released from his army post in a decree from the president, who was on a visit Saturday to Turkey. Meta, who clashed regularly with the government, congratulated the new president. A handover ceremony is planned for July 24.
Begaj has been the army’s chief-of-staff since July 2020. Before that, he held several army posts, including ones in public and military hospitals, and trained in the U.S. on strategic medical leadership and defense management.
The European Union, the United States and other Western countries congratulated Begaj in his new post.
“We look forward to working together for a prosperous, secure and solid EU-#Albania relationship, as members of one European family,” tweeted EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.