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Albania PM’s Surprise Ministerial Changes Are Cosmetic, Analysts Claim

A day after Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama unexpectedly replaced seven of his ministers, analysts in Tirana said that the governing Socialists’ leader is trying to redeem his government after several political allies have been hit by corruption scandals in recent months.

Afrim Krasniqi, a political expert who runs the Tirana-based Institute for Political Studies think-tank, said that it has become a norm in Albania for the cabinet to change every two years, but the purpose is not to raise the standard of governance.

“Initially, there were changes to correct the standard of governance and sectoral [administrative] issues, but in recent years, changes have mainly been made to gain time and to avoid the government’s involvement in scandals related to certain ministers,” Krasniqi told BIRN.

Among the recent troubles to affect Rama’s allies are the arrests in June of Socialist politician Vangjush Dako, a former mayor of Durres, on suspicion of abuse of office, and the Socialist former mayor of Kukes, Safet Gjici, who is accused of promising a woman a municipal contract in exchange for sexual favours.

But analyst and political journalist Lutfi Dervishi told BIRN that “the changes in the government and the prime minister’s speech do not send any signal that there will be a proactive approach towards corruption”.

“The main message is: beware of SPAK [Albania’s Special Prosecution Against Corruption and Organised Crime],” Dervishi said.

Rama, who made a speech to announce the cabinet changes in parliament on Monday, vowed that his administration and political party will not obstruct justice.

“There is no chance that this government and party will prevent SPAK from fighting corruption,” he said.

In the past two years, several members of parliament and former ministers have been investigated by SPAK. Each time an official has been arrested or charged, Rama has insisted that their responsibility is personal.

But Dervishi said that Rama’s government should take responsibility for corruption among politicians too.

“The solution is not SPAK. It is primarily the responsibility of the executive,” he said.

Among the ministers who were removed by Rama was Foreign Minister Olta Xhacka. The opposition has asked the Constitutional Court to remove Xhacka’s mandate as an MP after her husband, former Socialist MP Artan Gaci, was declared a strategic investor by the government and allowed to build a tourist complex in the coastal town of Himara.

Agriculture Minister Frida Krifca was also removed. In July this year, the European Commission announced the temporary suspension of its funding to support agriculture and rural development in Albania. According to the EU delegation in Tirana, the suspension was based on information from the European Anti-Fraud Office.

Krasniqi said that ministerial reshuffle was carried out because of issues like the ones affecting Xhacka and Krifca, to create the “idea of change”.

“In good political practice, ministers are changed when there is a sectoral analysis and when their activity does not match the pace of reform and government priorities, while new ministers are chosen on the basis of their merits and vision for sectoral reforms,” Krasniqi said.

“In this particular case, there is no analysis… the government has neither priorities nor a concrete program, and the new ministers do not yet have any public idea regarding their sectors. There are simply dismissals, transfers and appointments, to create the idea of ​​change,” he added.

Some of the ministers announced by Rama on Monday previously held other ministerial roles, but some are new names for the public.

Rama appointed as Ervin Meta Minister of Finance, Igli Hasani as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ogerta Manastirliu as Minister of Education. Manastirliu has previously been Minister of Health.

He appointed Albana Kociu as Minister of Health, Delina Ibrahimaj as Minister of State and Arbjan Mazniku as Minister of State for Local Governance. Ibrahimaj has previously been Minister of Finance.

Source : BalkanInsight