Prishtina, 5 June 2022 (dpa/MIA) — With the votes of the ruling Socialists, the Albanian parliament has elected the former army chief Bajram Begaj as president of the country.
On Saturday, 78 of 140 deputies voted for the 55-year-old military doctor. There were four votes against and one abstention, the ATA news agency reported. The right-wing opposition boycotted the election.
Begaj graduated in general medicine in Tirana and became a military doctor. In the armed forces, he became commander-in-chief of the medical service. He was also head of the Training and Doctrine Command.
He became commander-in-chief of the Albanian armed forces almost two years ago.
The Balkan country has been a member of NATO since 2009.
Begaj replaces President Ilir Meta, who was elected five years ago. He had also been supported by the Socialists but had fallen out with Prime Minister Edi Rama.
Impeachment proceedings initiated by the Socialists shortly before the end of Meta’s term failed because the Constitutional Court did not consider his dismissal justified.
Begaj had been nominated by the Socialists for the highest office of state only shortly before Saturday’s vote. Three ballots had failed in the days before.
Saturday’s ballot was the first in which the 50% majority in parliament was sufficient for a successful election.
Meta signed the document dismissing Begaj, who held the rank of major general, from the military shortly before the election. The Albanian constitution prohibits military personnel from holding high state office.
The head of state in Albania tends to have only ceremonial powers.