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The Republic of Albania is a parliamentary democracy, where most executive powers are vested in the office of prime minister and the government, which are elected by the parliament. The Albanian parliament is made up of 140 members (MP) elected fora four-year term through a closed-list proportional representation system. The President of the Republic is the head of the state and represents, according to the Constitution, the ‘unity of the people’. He is elected by the parliament for a five-year term. The nominee must be an Albanian citizen of at least 40 years of age and should have resided in the country in the last 10 years. Although the president is considered the Head of the State, the office holds few executive powers and is considered mainly as ceremonial.

The current Albanian President, Ilir Meta, was elected on April 28th 2017, with 87 votes in favor and two votes against in the 140-seat assembly. At the time Meta was the leader of the Socialist Movement for Integration and has previously served as a foreign minister, prime minister and the speaker of the parliament. The last parliamentary elections were held on June 25th 2017, with the Socialist Party winning 74 seats in the assembly, the opposition Democratic Party 50 seats and the Socialist Movement for Integration 16 seats.  The election results allowed the Socialist Party, headed by the Prime Minister, Edi Rama, to form the first single party government in more than a decade. Rama’s cabinet has 13 ministers and a deputy prime minister, SenidaMesi. Six of the ministers are men and 6 are women.

From 1945 to 1991, under the regime of former dictator Enver Hoxha, Albania was one of the most isolated countries behind the Iron Curtain, comparable only to today’s North Korea. Following the World War II, Hoxha aligned himself with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries; however, he broke with the block following Nikita Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization policies, which Hoxha perceived as contrary to Marxist doctrine and a threat to his own leadership. In the 1960s Hoxha aligned the country with China, which, with its support,  replacedsoviet economic aid and provided loans that sustained the Albanian regime. However, even the relation with China turned sour following the 1972 visit in Beijing of former US President Richard Nixon, the death of Chairman Mao Zedong in 1976 and the pragmatic foreign policy of the new Chinese leadership. After the split with China, Albania was left with no outside benefactor and the economic conditions in the country worsened, leading to chronic shortages of basic goods. Hoxha maintained a strong personality cult, built on class struggle and abuse of human rights. In 1976 he declared Albania the first atheist country in the world and banned religious practice. After Hoxha’s death in 1985, he was replaced by his political successor Ramiz Alia.  Despite some reforms introduced by Alia, his reign on power was shaken following the anti-communist revolutions in Eastern Europe, particularly, the execution of NicolaeCausescu in 1989 in Romania. A year later, in December 1990, following protests from students at the University of Tirana, the party allowed other parties to form, relinquishing its absolute control on power.

Following nearly a half-century of Stalinist style communist rule, Albania held its first multi-party elections in 1991. Ayear later, on March 22nd 1992, Albania’s Workers Party lost its reign on power and the country’s tumultuous transition to democracy started. Following the collapse of a series of Ponzistyle investment schemes in 1997, where a large part of the population lost its savings, a period of anarchy followed and only through the help of a UN peacekeeping force led by Italy, known as operation Alba,law and order werere-established. In 1999, the country was host to nearly half a million ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo, who were escaping ethnic persecution at the hands of the former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

In the last two decades since the collapse of communism, the Socialist Party and the Democratic Party have dominated political life. Despite considerable economic and social progress, the transition from autocratic to democratic rule has been mired inpolitical strife, lack of interparty dialogue and widespread corruption among the highest echelons of power. Electoral processes have also been problematic and contested, mired inaccusations of undue political influence, vote buying allegations and have yet to meet internationally recognized standards. In 2008 Albania became a member of NATO and since June 2014 has been an official candidate for accession tothe European Union. Albania built a bustling media scene following the collapse of communism, with dozens of TV stations and print outlets; however, these outlets often take an editorial line that suits owners’economic and political interests, which pushes many journalists toward self-censorship.   

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