Sali Berisha

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Sali Berisha
EPP Summit March 2011 (39).jpg
34th Prime Minister of Albania
In office
11 September 2005 – 15 September 2013
President Alfred Moisiu
Bamir Topi
Bujar Nishani
Deputy Ilir Rusmali
Gazmend Oketa
Genc Pollo
Ilir Meta
Edmond Haxhinasto
Myqerem Tafaj
Preceded by Fatos Nano
Succeeded by Edi Rama
President of Albania
In office
9 April 1992 – 24 July 1997
Prime Minister Vilson Ahmeti
Aleksandër Meksi
Bashkim Fino
Preceded by Ramiz Alia
Succeeded by Rexhep Meidani
Personal details
Born (1944-10-15) 15 October 1944 (age 69)
Viçidol, Albania
Political party Party of Labour (1968)
Democratic Party (1991–present)
Spouse(s) Liri Ramaj
Children 2
Alma mater University of Tirana
Signature

About this sound Prof. Dr. Sali Berisha , (Albanian pronunciation: [saˈli bɛˈɾiʃa]; born 15 October 1944) is an Albanian cardiologist and politician who served as President of Albania from 1992 to 1997 and Prime Minister from 2005 to 2013. He was also the leader of the Democratic Party of Albania twice, from 1991 to 1992 and then again from 1997 to 2013. To date, Berisha is the longest-serving democratically-elected leader and the only President of Albania elected to a second term.

Berisha was already a prominent intellectual in 1990 when, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, he called for the abolition of the one-party state and transition to democracy. A former secretary of the committee of the Party of Labor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Tirana, he abandoned his career as a cardiologist and university professor to become the leader of the Democratic Party in the 1990s. From 1992, after the fall of communism, he served as the President of Albania until his government collapsed in 1997 in the wake of the collapse of notorious pyramid schemes. From 1997 to 2005, Albania was governed by the Socialist Party (PS) for two mandates, while he stayed in opposition.

In 2005, the Democratic Party won the general elections, and he became the Prime Minister after his coalition formed the new government. In 2009, he was re-elected Prime Minister, after the Democrats obtained a narrow win in the general elections but were forced into a coalition with the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) through not winning enough seats on its own for the first time since the start of multi-party democracy in 1991.

Early life and career[edit]

Berisha was born in Viçidol, Tropojë District, Kukës County, northern Albania, near the border with Kosovo to Ram and Sheqere Berisha. He studied medicine at the University of Tirana, graduating in 1967. He specialized in cardiology and was subsequently appointed as an assistant professor of medicine at the same university and as staff cardiologist at the Tirana General Hospital. At the same time, Berisha became a member of a discussion forum for changes in the Albanian Party of Labor[1] while having been enrolled as a member a few years earlier. Apart from his native Albanian, he speaks English, Italian and French fluently. During the 1970s, Berisha gained distinction as the leading researcher in the field of cardiology in Albania and became professor of cardiology at the University of Tirana. In 1978 he received a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural (UNESCO) fellowship for nine months of advanced study and training in Paris.

He also conducted a research program on hemodynamics that attracted considerable attention among his colleagues in Europe. In 1986 he was elected to be a member of the European Committee for Research on Medical Sciences, where he worked for the elaboration of scientific researches strategies for “Health for all”.

In an interview for the Albanian Writers League newspaper published also in the international press, Berisha demanded that the remaining barriers to freedom of thought and expression be ended, that Albanians be granted the right to travel freely within the country and abroad, and that Albania abandon its isolationist foreign policy. At an August 1990 meeting of the nation’s intellectuals convened by President Ramiz Alia, Berisha urged the Albanian Party of Labor (APL) to abolish the third article of the communist constitution which sanctioned that the Party of Labor had the hegemony of the Power, to recognize the Human Rights Charter, the drafting of a new democratic constitution, and to remove all monuments of Stalin in the country.

In an article published in the “Bashkimi” newspaper on 17 September 1990, Berisha condemned what he termed the “cosmetic reforms” of the Alia regime, which had only served to aggravate unrest within the nation. Without political pluralism, he argued, there could be no true democracy in Albania.

In December 1990, Berisha joined, on the very first day, a series of student demonstrations that forced the government to approve the establishment of a multi-party system. Berisha emerged as the leader of the Democratic Party of Albania (DP), the first and largest of the new opposition parties. It is interesting to note that all leading members of the party wore white coats during demonstrations. He was formally elected DP chairman in February 1991 at the party’s first national congress. He was elected member of Albania parliament in 1991, 1992, 1997, 2001 from the constituency of Kavajë.

President (1992–1997)[edit]

After the first free elections of Albania, Berisha was elected President on 9 April 1992. He was the country's first non-Communist head of state in 46 years, and the first to be freely elected.

Following his election, Berisha and his government were engaged in a profound course of political, economic, institutional, legislative and multifaceted reforms. Therefore, the complete privatization of land and residencies, as well as of all small and medium state enterprises, was accomplished over the period ’92-’96; prices and exchange rates were fully liberalized, and Albania changed from a country of a three figure inflation rate and economic growth regression of −20% into a country with a one-figure inflation rate and with an average economic growth rate of 9% in ’92 and, in ’93 – ’96, 75% of GDP was generated from the private sector. Albania opened towards the West; it became a member of the Council of Europe in 1995; it signed the Partnership for Peace Agreement in 1993, and it established a close cooperation with European Union countries and the United States.

All laws of the communist dictatorship were replaced with new laws of European standards, and a series of institutions that had not been in place before, like the Constitutional Court and High Council of Justice, were established.

Berisha's Democratic Party won the general election on 26 May 1996, though it was marred by accusations of intimidation, manipulation and violent squelching of a peaceful opposition protests discrediting them. The country plunged into a political crisis, as the Democratic Party refused to annul the elections – they had won four-fifths of the seats in parliament – and the opposition Socialists abandoned the institutions.

The collapse of the Ponzi schemes towards the end of 1996, into which it is alleged that Albanians invested $1 billion worth of life savings from 1994, recapped the crisis. The schemes failed, one by one, from December 1996, and demonstrators took to the streets to accuse the government of having stolen the money. Those demonstrations were then taken over by the opposition.

By March, military depots around the country were looted and for a time it looked like civil war would erupt between the government and rebels. Berisha refused opposition demands to step down, and Multinational Forces of NATO were required to step in and take the situation under control. After their intervention in Albania, early elections were held in June 1997, leading to the victory of a socialist-led coalition of parties. He resigned from the president's tenure one month after the DP lost the 1997 elections to the left coalition. In July 1997, Berisha was replaced by the socialist Rexhep Meidani. Since then he has been the chairman of the DP, which became the biggest opposition party. He eventually returned to power and, since 2005, has been the leader of the Democratic Party.

Opposition leader (1997–2005)[edit]

Sali Berisha led the coalition of the center-right parties in the general elections held in five rounds in June–August 2001. Although Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe/ODIHR International Election Observation Mission declared these elections as being manipulated. The coalition won 37% of the votes. Berisha led continuous peaceful demonstrations demanding fresh elections.

Prime Minister (2005-2013)[edit]

Sali Berisha and George W. Bush in Tirana, June 2007
Sali and Lirie Berisha with Barack and Michelle Obama, September 2009

On 3 July 2005, Sali Berisha was able to lead a coalition of five right center parties into the 2005 parliamentary elections, which eventually won a majority of 74 MPs from a total of 140. He was appointed Prime Minister of Albania on 8 September 2005.

On 10 June 2007, Sali Berisha met with U.S. President George W. Bush in Tirana. Bush became the first U.S. president to visit Albania and repeated his staunch support for the independence of neighbouring Kosovo from Serbia: "At some point in time, sooner rather than later, you've got to say, enough is enough. Kosovo is independent."[2]

On 15 March 2008, Berisha faced the toughest challenge of his government when an ammunition dump exploded in the village of Gërdec near Tirana, causing the deaths of 26 people and injuring over 100. Defense Minister Fatmir Mediu resigned, and the press reported many irregularities at the blast site, operated by an Albanian company that deactivated the country's aging ammunition and then sold it for scrap.

In June 2009, Berisha's Democrats declared a narrow win in the parliamentary elections. Berisha's alliance came up one seat short of a majority and had to join forces with a splinter socialist party, the Socialist Movement for Integration of Ilir Meta, in order to retain power. Berisha appointed to Meta to the post of Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs, and later Minister of Economy, Trade and Energy. It is the first time since the start of multi-party democracy in 1991 that a ruling party had been forced into a coalition through not winning enough seats on its own.[3]

The 2009 elections were flawed and have been called as such by the socialist opposition, who have asked for a recount of the ballots. Berisha refused any recount of the votes, on the ground that the Albanian Constitution does not foresee such procedure. For that reason he called the opposition to the parliament to change the constitution, but the Socialist Party refused. The political crisis between government and opposition worsened over time, with the Socialists abandoning parliamentary debates for months and staging hunger strikes to ask for internal and international support. The EU attempted a conciliation, which failed. The ongoing political crisis was one of the reasons for the EU's refusal to grant Albania official candidate status in late 2010.[4]

On 21 January 2011, clashes broke out between police and protesters in an anti-government rally in front of the Government building in Tirana. Four people were shot dead from government special forces.[5] The EU issued a statement to Albanian politicians, warning both sides to refrain from violence,[6] while Berisha defined the protests and the subsequent charges by judges upon policemen as stages of an attempted coup against him - consequently using this to his advantage to further attempt to consolidate his grip on the state institutions. He accused the then President of having been part of the coup after the relations had soured between the two and he embraced his perceived victim status to install his own 'yes man' in the office.[7]

Prime Minister Sali Berisha has expressed support for LGBT rights and led the way for the successful adoption of an anti-discrimination act protecting Albania's LGBT citizens. Berisha also proposed in 2009 that the Albanian parliament enact a law providing legal recognition for same-sex marriage, but as of 2013 there hasn't yet been a vote in parliament regarding this specific issue.

Personal life[edit]

Sali Berisha is married to Liri Berisha (née Ramaj), a pediatrician.Liri Berisha is the president of Albanian Children Foundation. Her foundation focuses on children with autism and down syndrome. The couple has two children, a daughter, Argita Malltezi (née Berisha), and a son, Shkëlzen Berisha.[8]

Berisha has been described as a Muslim by many Western sources.[9][10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ AlbaniaSite – Nje bote plot me informacione » Takimi me intelektualët, Berisha ishte kundër pluralizmit. Albania Site (14 May 2010). Retrieved on 13 May 2012.
  2. ^ "Bush Is Greeted Warmly in Albania". The New York Times. 10 June 2007. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  3. ^ "Albania PM re-election confirmed". BBC. 27 July 2009. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  4. ^ Jovanovska, Svetlana. (8 May 2012) / Albania is refused EU candidate status. Euobserver. Retrieved on 13 May 2012.
  5. ^ Breaking News: Protesters killed in Tirana rally. SETimes (21 January 2011). Retrieved on 13 May 2012.
  6. ^ Pop, Valentina. (8 May 2012) Albania killings cast shadow over country's EU aspirations. Euobserver. Retrieved on 13 May 2012.
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ (Albanian) Sali Berisha|Keshilli i Ministrave. Keshilliministrave.al. Retrieved on 13 May 2012.
  9. ^ Nonneman, Gerd; Niblock, Tim; Szajkowski, Bogdan (1997). Muslim Communities in the New Europe. Berkshire: Garnet Publishing Limited. p. 146. ISBN 0863722237. Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  10. ^ Vickers, Miranda; Pettifer, James (1997). Albania: From Anarchy to a Balkan Identity. New York, NY: New York University Press. p. 107. Retrieved 19 January 2013. 

External links[edit]

Party political offices
New political party Leader of the Democratic Party
1991–1992
Succeeded by
Eduard Selami
Preceded by
Genc Pollo
Leader of the Democratic Party
1997–2013
Succeeded by
Lulzim Basha
Political offices
Preceded by
Ramiz Alia
President of Albania
1992–1997
Succeeded by
Rexhep Meidani
Preceded by
Fatos Nano
Prime Minister of Albania
2005–2013
Succeeded by
Edi Rama