Albania profile - Leaders

  • 18 March 2015
  • From the section Europe

President: Bujar Nishani

Albanian President Bujar Nishani
Image caption Mr Nishani is a former interior minister

Bujar Nishani was elected president by parliament in June 2012, replacing Bamir Topi when his mandate came to an end.

The main opposition Socialist Party boycotted the vote, and Mr Nishani was the only candidate put forward by the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Sali Berisha's Democratic Party.

Albania had been mired in political crisis for three years since the Socialists accused the Democrats of electoral fraud after the June 2009 legislative polls, and the failure to agree a consensus presidential candidate marked a setback for European Union efforts to ease political tensions. Government and opposition leaders traded accusations of sabotage throughout the process, which went through several rounds.

Mr Nishani, 46, was the country's interior minister at the time of his election. He is a graduate of Albania's military academy and holds degrees in law and European studies.

The president, who serves a five-year term, has an important role as the head of the legal system and commander of the country's armed forces.

Prime minister: Edi Rama

Edi Rama became prime minister in September 2013, three months after elections in which his Socialist Party won a landslide victory that brought to an end eight years of conservative rule.

Mr Rama's main campaign pledges were to revive Albania's ailing economy, combat widespread corruption and crime, and speed up the country's integration into the European Union.

Image caption Mr Rama was a charismatic mayor of Tirana before becoming prime minister

The election was closely monitored by the EU, which has twice rejected Albania's membership application and warned that the poll would be "a crucial test" for its further progress towards integration in the bloc.

The outcome of the previous election, which returned the centre-right Democratic Party to power in 2009 by an extremely slender margin, was hotly disputed by the Socialists, who refused to recognise the result and launched a campaign of mass protests and civil disobedience in support of demands for a recount.

Mr Rama became the leader of the Socialists in 2005 and spearheaded the party's challenging of the 2009 election outcome. The dispute over the result appeared at times to be bringing the country to the edge of civil conflict, and became a significant obstacle to Albania's EU integration.

His predecessor as prime minister, Sali Berisha, dominated the country's political scene for more than 20 years, but by 2013 the electorate appeared to have become tired of the lack of economic progress under Mr Berisha and his perceived failure to tackle organised crime.

Edi Rama is a painter-turned-politician who studied at the School of Fine Arts in Paris and during the 1990s made his home in the French capital.

On his return to Albania, he became minister of culture in the Socialist government of Fatos Nano in 1998.

In 2000, he was elected mayor of Tirana - a position he held until 2011. As mayor, he set out to remake the impoverished capital into a lively modern city, and embarked on a number of controversial projects, one of which was to order the painting of many old buildings in what became known as Edi Rama colours - bright pink, yellow, green and violet.

Mr Rama's critics claimed that he devoted too much attention to cosmetic changes and failed to get to grips with major problems such as the unreliability of basic services in Tirana.

A fluent speaker of English, French and Italian, Mr Rama is described by observers as a dynamic man with a strong personality.

As prime minister, he faces many tough challenges. His pledge to improve living standards - in a country where many people depend heavily on financial aid from the large Albanian diaspora in Western Europe and the United States - will be especially difficult to realise.

On the foreign policy front, one of the biggest challenges he faces is to mend bridges with Belgrade, which has long been deeply suspicious of Tirana's intentions towards the former Serbian province of Kosovo, where the majority of the population are ethnic Albanians.

A visit by Mr Rama to Belgrade in November 2014, seen as an historic opportunity to improve relations between the two countries, turned into a tense occasion during which the Albanian and Serbian prime ministers traded barbs over the status of the province.