Air of Secrecy Hangs Over Election of Albanian President

Albania's parliament is set to vote for a new president on Saturday, but no candidates' names are known or even rumoured, less than 24 hours ahead of the vote.

The main opposition Democratic Party has announced a boycott of the session but the votes of opposition MPs would not matter anyway; in the fourth round of the election, a simple majority of votes in the 140-seat parliament is enough. This can be provided by PM Edi Rama's Socialists.

Compared with the last presidential election, when outgoing incumbent Ilir Meta was voted in, no names have been leaked even to pro-government media, with analysts criticizing Rama for keeping the candidate-picking process to himself and his inner circle.

The Socialists have only declared that they will only present one candidature on Saturday, without making any suggestion who this might be.

It "will be completely opposite to what [the process with] Ilir Meta was", the head of the Socialist group in parliament, Taulant Balla, told a TV show on Thursday.

Meta and Rama have a history of bad relations, which culminated last year when Rama's Socialists launched a procedure to oust Meta in parliament.

In February, Meta won the battle to complete his mandate in office after winning a Constitutional Court case.

It is expected that the new president will be more loyal to Rama than he was, as he or she will be proposed and voted in by Rama's party.

After an agreement between the Socialists and Democratic Party failed, the decision to elect a new president is totally in the hands of Socialists, who have the needed numbers of the votes.

The deadline to present candidatures, as proposed by Balla, will be the same day as the vote. The candidature should be submitted on Saturday...

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