Edi Rama’s leadership has not been without hardship. Coming to power in September 2013, he has led Albania through a myriad of changes. The most recent change is Albania’s choice to cut ties with Iran after an attempted cyberattack. Some may claim this is an aggressive move, however, it is on par with Rama’s attempt to clamp down on corruption and aggression in Albanian politics.
Albania has a long history of turbulent politics, which continues to this day. Having previously been a communist state and a member of the Warsaw Pact, they turned away from the Soviet Union due to the belief that the Soviet leaders were moving away from the communist agenda — instead looking to China for an ally. This alliance eventually fell through for similar reasons, and Albania’s commitment to communism persisted until the 1990s when it turned towards a more capitalist, democratic approach. Unfortunately, after this change occurred Albania suffered an economic crash in 1997 and the UN military was forced to intervene. This is the political world that Rama came into in his first role as Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports in 1998.
Rama has not always followed a political path, having played basketball professionally for his country. He claims this endeavour resulted from a lack of access to visual arts and outside information while he was an art student in communist Albania, which was further hampered by travel restrictions. As a basketball player, he was able to travel and witness visual arts that had previously been out of his reach. His talent for drawing led to his former job as an art professor, with his detailed doodles being well known throughout the world of international politics. These personal and professional experiences are reflected in both his political stance and approach.
Taking inspiration from his artistic talents to pursue his plan of a ‘Renaissance for Albania’, he has mainly focused on revitalising domestic politics and reintegrating the country into international politics. This approach incorporates his socialist ideology and pride in his country, attempting to improve the international image of Albania without conforming to the traditional image of a politician.
After his first role in politics, Rama then became Mayor of Tirana — the capital of Albania. His approach to this role took stock from his artistic nature, with him improving arts and developing the architecture of the city. From here he went on to campaign for the premiership, and has made history as the first prime minister to be voted in for three terms. Some may see this as a representation of his positive influence on Albanian politics, however, his terms have not been without controversy and violence. Rama’s approach to foreign policy has caused backlash both domestically and internationally. A famously embarrassing moment was the escalation of Albania’s row with Serbia in 2014. To calm tensions between the two countries over the independence of Kosovo, Rama visited Serbia. This trip quickly turned sour with Serbian politicians accusing Rama of trying to arouse anger.
This failed diplomatic event is not Rama’s only controversial period of politics; he faced calls to step down in 2019 due to claims he had participated in corruption. The ensuing anti-government protests ended up turning violent, with Ilir Meta — the president at the time and Rama’s opponent — stepping in to call for peaceful demonstrations and to announce the cancellation of local elections. Throughout Rama’s candidacy, he has stood for democracy and stood against corruption — yet he was unable to prevent this knock.
Tensions have been increasing, with the World Bank stating that Albania needs to sort out its economy and fortify public finance. The almost stagnant economic situation has been worsened by a major earthquake in 2019 and the outbreak of Covid-19. Even though Rama could not predict these disasters, they have been a crushing blow to Albanians domestically. Many have taken to migrating to other European countries, including England. These dangerous and illegal attempts convey the desperation of Albanian nationals and the failure of Rama and his government.
Rama came to power through a message of hope and renovation. He succeeded in many aspects, with innovative architecture and greater integration of Albania into the outside world. Despite this positive approach, he was not fully equipped to deal with the years of political turmoil that preceded him and that continue to plague him. Hopefully Albania will be able to push through these conflicts and emerge a greater state than before.
The Featured Image ‘Arrivals of leaders | Arrival Edi Rama (Prime Minister of Albania) | NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization‘ by NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization is from Flickr and is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.