President Meta Refrains from Decreeing Several Ministers Ilir Meta. Photo: LSA.

On Saturday, President Ilir Meta decreed the dismissal of six ministers and a deputy prime minister. Prime Minister Edi Rama had submitted dismissals for seven ministers and a deputy prime minister, as well as new appointments. The President didn’t decree the dismissal of the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Ditmir Bushati.

The ministers whose dismissals were decreed were Deputy Prime Minister Senida Mesi, Minister of Finance and Economy Arben Ahmetaj, Minister of Infrastructure and Energy Damian Gjiknuri, Minister of Culture Mirela Kumbaro, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Lindita Nikolla, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Niko Peleshi, and Minister of State for Entrepreneurship Sonila Qato.

At this point in time, President Meta decreed only four of the nine new appointments of which eight are ministers and one is a deputy prime minister. The new appointments decreed were that of Erjon Braçe as Deputy Prime Minister, Bledi Çuçi as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Elisa Spiropali as State Minister for Relations with Parliament, and Eduard Shalësi as Minister of State for Entrepreneurship. The decreed ones are the only Members of Parliament in Rama’s list of new appointments, which shows the criterion followed by President Meta in his decrees.

President Meta has the right to take up to 7 days before issuing decrees for the rest of the appointees. It appears that he has chosen to get more background information on the rest of the ministers appoint by Rama, namely Gent Cakaj, Anila Demaj, Besa Shahini, Belinda Balluku, and Elva Margariti.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ditmir Bushati was the only one whose dismissal the President didn’t decree. Bushati’s dismissal by Rama surprised many, given that he was leading important processes expected to finalize in 2019. Bushati was heading Albania’s bid for the potential opening of negotiations between Albania and the EU next summer, as well as negotiations on an agreement on the maritime border with Greece.

On 28 December, Prime Minister Rama unexpectedly announced the replacement of eight of his 14 member cabinet, following several long-lasting protests. The timing for these changes appears to have been forced upon Rama by daily students’ protests last month, as well as by several corruption scandals of his government.

With the recent changes, Rama himself and returning Minister Bledi Çuçi are the only ones remaining of Rama’s first government when he came to power in 2013. Rama’s criteria for his dismissals and appointments are not clear. Ironically, he praised each minister’s work before sacking them. Most of the newly appointed ministers are unfamiliar names to the general public, with very little or no political activity.