Edi Rama (born 4 July 1964) is an Albanian politician, artist, writer and former basketball player, who has been the Prime Minister of Albania since 2013. Rama has also been Chairman of the Socialist Party of Albania since 2005. Before his election as Prime Minister, Rama held a number of other positions. He was appointed Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports in 1998, a position that he held until 2000. He was first elected Mayor of Tirana in 2000, and was reelected in 2003 and 2007. In 2013, the coalition of center-left parties led by Edi Rama won the 2013 parliamentary election, defeating the center-right coalition of Democratic Party of Albania's incumbent Prime Minister, Sali Berisha.
|42nd Prime Minister of Albania|
13 September 2013
|Preceded by||Sali Berisha|
|Chairman of the Socialist Party of Albania|
10 October 2005
|Preceded by||Fatos Nano|
|40th Mayor of Tirana|
11 October 2000 – 25 July 2011
|Preceded by||Albert Brojka|
|Succeeded by||Lulzim Basha|
|Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports|
2 October 1998 – 26 October 2000
|Prime Minister||Pandeli Majko
|Preceded by||Arta Dade|
|Succeeded by||Esmeralda Uruçi|
4 July 1964 |
|Political party||Socialist Party of Albania|
|Spouse(s)||Matilda Makoçi (m. 1986; div. 1991)
Linda Basha (m. 2010)
|Alma mater||Academy of Arts|
Early life and CareerEdit
Edi Rama was born on 4 July 1964 in Tirana, Albania to Kristaq Rama, a well-known sculptor born in Durres, creator of numerous statues of Albania's communist dictator Enver Hoxha, and Aneta Rama (née Koleka), a graduate of medicine from Vuno, Vlorë, sister of Spiro Koleka a member of the Politburo during Communist Albania.
Rama started painting early in his childhood. During his teenager years, his talent was noticed by influential Albanian painters of the time, Edi Hila and Danish Jukniu. They encouraged Rama to further develop his painting skills in a professional context. As a teenager, Rama was involved in sports as a professional basketball player for Dinamo Tirana. He was also part of the Albania national basketball team. However, in 1982, he decided to enroll to the Academy of Arts in Tirana.
After graduating, Rama started working as an instructor at the Academy of Arts. During this time, he organized several open student meetings, during which the communist government was publicly criticized. Essays from those meetings were collected in the book Refleksione, which Rama published together with publicist Ardian Klosi in 1992.
Shortly before the fall of communism in Albania, Rama attempted several times to get involved with the incipient fight for democracy. He tried to influence student protests and become part of the newly created Democratic Party of Albania, but soon left after a quarrel over ideological matters with Sali Berisha.
During one of his trips back to Albania in January 1997, Rama suffered a physical assault. While perpetrators were never found, there were concerns over the involvement of the State Secret Service given Rama's outspoken criticism towards the Albanian government.
In 1998, while in Albania for the funeral of his father, Rama was offered a cabinet position by the then-Prime Minister of Albania Fatos Nano. Later that year he was appointed Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports.
As a Minister, Rama immediately became known for his extravagance in a variety of ways, including his unique colorful dressing style. His innovative cultural projects, coupled with his strange clothing and rebellious political style, helped him reach a great level of support especially among young people.
Mayor of Tirana (2000-11)Edit
In October 2000, the Socialist Party of Albania endorsed Edi Rama in the election for Mayor of Tirana. The Democratic Party nominee was Besnik Mustafaj an Albanian writer and diplomat. Rama won 57% of the vote and was sworn-in as mayor. After taking office, he undertook a radical campaign of bulldozing hundreds of illegal constructions and restoring many areas near Tirana's center and Lana River into their initial form.
Rama earned international recognition by repainting the facades of many soviet-style, demolishing buildings in the city. The repainting gave the city a unique style, turning it into a tourist attraction. Rama was awarded World Best Mayor in 2004. The award committee, motivated their decision stating that “Edi Rama is the man who changed a whole city. Now there is a new Tirana, colored, happy, with a new and improved infrastructure and cultural life”.
As mayor he compiled the Tirana City Master Plan including the Skanderbeg Square project. He planted thousands of new trees, making Tirana a much more environment-friendly city. Rama also expanded the existing roads and paved new ones, improving mobility. According to a UNDP report Rama played a critical role in the modernization of the local government, empowering municipalities and giving them, for the first time real power to impact the life of their communities.
In 2011, Rama decided to run for a fourth term in office. His opponent, Lulzim Basha was a member of Prime Minister Berisha's cabinet. Rama's reelection bid failed after a court ruling decided hundreds of ballots mistakenly cast in the wrong ballot boxes were valid. The initial count saw Rama ahead by 10 votes. With all ballots counted Lulzim Basha won the race by 81 votes. Edi Rama appealed the court's decision at the Electoral College and demanded the reinstatement of the initial tally. Rama's appeals were rejected and Lulzim Basha was sworn in as the new Mayor of Tirana. Rama and the Socialist Party criticized the judges involved in the court ruling, severely eroding public's trust in Albanian institutions.
Leader of the opposition (2005-13)Edit
Having previously run as an independent in 2000, Edi Rama only registered as a Socialist in 2003. Later that year he announced a bid for the chairmanship of the Party. He and a Rexhep Meidani, a former President ran against the incumbent, Fatos Nano. Rama's bid failed to gain sufficient support from the Assembly delegates. He received 41 votes, Rexhep Meidani received 61, while Fatos Nano was reelected with 456 votes.
After the center-left coalition lost in the 2005 parliamentary election, Fatos Nano resigned as Chairman of the Socialist Party. In the subsequent election for the chairmanship of the Party, Edi Rama defeated Rexhep Meidani 297 to 151 and became the Chairman of the Socialist Party. Capitalizing on Rama’s popularity as a mayor, the Socialist Party of Albania regained some of its appeal. Rama replaced many of Party's influential leaders with younger loyalists. In his earlier attempts to regain control in the Parliament, he tried to frame himself as a political outsider. Inspired by the progressive policies of Tony Blair’s “New Labour” and Anthony Giddens “Third Way”, his political platform called for a “third direction beyond the traditional right and left”.
As the minority leader, Rama threw his support behind a set of constitutional amendments introduced in the Parliament during summer 2008. These amendments changed Albania's election law from a majoritarian representation with a proportional adjustment into a party-list proportional representation as well as curtailed Presidential powers. Despite criticism and protests from President Bamir Topi and MPs from the Socialist Movement for Integration and other smaller political parties, the amendments were passed in the Parliament with a super-majority. Almost all constitutional experts believe they have greatly weakened institutions and democracy in Albania.
Rama's reelection as Mayor in 2007 was greatly helped by the Socialist Movement for Integration's endorsement of his candidacy. Seeing the 2008 constitutional amendments voted by Rama's SPA as a serious threat to their existence in Albanian politics, Ilir Meta and the SMI did not join Rama in a pre-electoral coalition for the 2009 parliamentary election. The Socialist Party led by Edi Rama were only able to win 66 seats in the Parliament. Incumbent Prime Minister Berisha's Democratic Party won 70 seats, while the remaining 4 seats went to Ilir Meta's Socialist Movement for Integration. Demands by Edi Rama and the Socialists for a recount in the district of Fier were rejected by courts and were finally dealt a major blow when all four newly-elected SMI MPs aligned themselves with Prime Minister Berisha's Democrats. While it was clear that a recount would not flip the 74 MP majority commanded by this new alliance, Edi Rama continued to criticize the court's decision for many months and questioned its impartiality. His criticism has greatly eroded public's trust in Albanian institutions.
Rama never resigned as Chairman of the Socialist Party, despite failing to win the 2009 parliamentary election. Instead he escalated the political discourse and rallied his supporters as a means to divert attention from his failed bid. The Socialists boycotted all parliamentary debates for months and staged a hunger strike to gather domestic and foreign support. All attempts by EU officials to reset dialogue failed. Rama's radical approach after losing the 2009 election is seen by many as the main reason for Albania's failed bid at gaining official candidate status in accession talks with the EU.
In January 2011, a recorded videotape showed Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta negotiating informal pay-to-play fees with Dritan Prifti, Minister for the Economy, Commerce and Energy. 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. The EU issued a statement to Albanian politicians, warning both sides to refrain from violence.
Prime Minister of Albania (2013-ongoing)Edit
In 2013, the Socialist Party of Edi Rama led the coalition of left parties which won a landslide victory in the parliamentary election against the conservative coalition of PM Sali Berisha. His platform, nicknamed "Renaissance" was based on four pillars: European integration, economic revitalization, restoration of the public order and democratization of the state institutions. Since September 2013, Rama has been serving as the Prime Minister of Albania.
Policies as Prime MinisterEdit
Since 15 September 2013, Rama is serving as the 33rd Prime Minister of Albania. During the electoral campaign, Rama stated that the return of public order was his number one priority. In 2013, the Albanian Police was able to cover actively only 55% of the territory. The Government invested heavily in modernizing, training, and improving financial benefits of the police force. The police earned international acclaim when in 2014 undertook a highly successful operation on Lazarat, a remote village in the south of the country, known for the production of narcotics.
Rama has been committed to restructure the judicial system in Albania, which was one of the most corrupted and ineffective judicial systems in Europe at that time. In 2016, the Parliament approved the “vetting law”. Based on this law, any judge or prosecutor which cannot explain his source of wealth or former dubious verdicts will be disqualified for life. In November 2016, the European Union stated that a successful implementation of vetting law remains the sole criteria to fulfill before opening accession talks.
Another key reform, was the reform in the energy sector, left in the brink of bankruptcy from a previous failed privatization effort. His government successfully enforced the payment of billions of unpaid bills and heavily invested in the modernization of the obsolete power distribution network. Economic policies have also been successful. The economic growth, from 0,5% in 2013, accelerated to 3,5% in 2016 and is expected to exceed 4% during 2017. Unemployment has been reduced steadily, thanks to 183.000 new jobs created in the last three years. Furthermore, with 14.7% (2016) Albania has the 4th lowest unemployment rate in the Balkans.
Other important reforms include the administrative reform, the social welfare and pension system reform, and the reform in higher education. Internationally, Rama is pursuing a historical reconciliation policy between Albanians and Serbs and his visit in Belgrade, in 2014 was the first visit of an Albanian Prime Minister in Serbia in over 70 years. In a second visit, during the Economic Forum of Nis, Rama compared the Albanian and Serbian reconciliation process with the historical reconciliation between the French and Germans after the second World War. Rama is also a key supporter of the Berlin Process, an intergovernmental platform of cooperation between the European Union and Western Balkans countries.
The 1st Cabinet of Rama was sworn in by President Bujar Nishani on 15 September 2013, becoming the 8th Cabinet of the Albanian Republic, since the collapse of communism in Albania. The Cabinet is composed of 21 members, with fifteen coming from the Socialist Party, four from the Socialist Movement for Integration and one from the Democratic Party. The Cabinet is also the first in which the number of female ministers is equal to the number of male ministers, excluding the Prime Minister.
The 2nd Cabinet of Rama will be sworn in by President Ilir Meta in September 2017, becoming the 9th Cabinet of the Albanian Republic, since the collapse of communism in Albania. The Cabinet is composed of 15 members, coming all from the Socialist Party. The Cabinet is also the second in which the number of female ministers is equal to the number of male ministers, excluding the Prime Minister.
In several occasions, Rama has stated that the European Union needs to accelerate the integration process of the Western Balkans, considering it the only way to subdue the dangerous fractions in the region, preventing a possible eruption of violence, like the one that hammered the region in the nineties. Rama has also denounced as destabilizing the rising Russian influence in the region.
Rama has had an intensive agenda of high level meetings. Since 2013, Rama has frequently met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, American President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, Pope Francis and many others.
Artist and WriterEdit
Rama is an active painter and has had several personal painting exhibitions.
Personal exhibitions include such as Janos Gallery in New York City (1993); Place de Médiathèque in France (1995); Palais Jalta in Frankfurt (1997); Acud in Berlin (1993); São Paulo in Brazil (1994); Israel (1995); National Art Gallery in Tirana, Albania (1992); and Gallery XXI in Albania (1999). In 2014 and 2017 Rama held an exhibit in the prestigious Venice Biennial. In 2016, a collection of his works were exposed in the prestigious Marion Goodman Gallery in New York City.
Rama is also an active writer. In 1992, while a professor at the Academy of Arts of Albania, Rama published a book with various notes together with publicist Ardian Klosi entitled “Refleksione” (Reflections). In 2009, Rama published a collection of personal notes and paintings in a book entitled Edi Rama. In November 2011, Rama published a reflection book on his years as mayor of Tirana entitled Kurban.
Edi Rama ancestry traces back to the southeastern village of Dardhë, near Korçë. Rama himself claims he has been baptized as Catholic. His claims are unverified. All religion was strictly forbidden in Albania at the time Rama was born. Regarding his religious beliefs, Rama has declared himself an Agnostic stating that “I do not practice any faith other than to the self and other people, but I don’t believe that the existence or non-existence of God is a matter that can ever be resolved by mortals.”
Since 2010, Rama has been married to Linda Rama (née Basha), an economist and civil society activist. Mrs. Rama, is a graduate of the University of Tirana and holds a Master of Arts in Economy and is a Doctor of Sciences in Economy. Until 1998 she has worked in high levels of public administration including the Head of the National Privatization Agency. She has a long academic experience as a lecturer in International Finance at the University of Tirana and a lecturer of Public Policies in the European University of Tirana. She is the author of several scientific researches and publications in her field. Together they have a son, Zaho, born in 2014.
Controversy and CriticismEdit
Attacks on the MediaEdit
Rama has been criticized for trying to intimidate the journalists and political commentators critical of him. Since rising to power in 2013, Prime Minister Edi Rama has launched a series of attacks towards them. These attacks often involve a mix of name calling, bullying and elitism. Among other names, he uses the Turkish loanword llum kazani (dregs in a cauldron) to describe journalists, television hosts, political commentators, as well as their coverage of the news. Rama commented during his appearance in "Të Paekspozuarit", a weekly political show by Ylli Rakipi, that the host and his regular guests, Andi Bushati and Fatos Lubonja, "pluck and roast chicken", "drink raki", and their viewers "eat dog food". Rakipi, Bushati and Lubonja are among his biggest critics. Rama's continuous attacks have severely undermined public trust in the media.
In 2003, Rama appeared before the Albanian Parliament in an inquiry commission on abuse of funds in the Municipality of Tirana. During the session, he was seen speaking using a loudspeaker. The commission was eventually closed and Rama acquitted.
During his time as a mayor, in several attempts to widen roads and improve infrastructure, Rama authorized the bulldozing of private properties. In one occasion, Rama himself cut an electric wooden pole with an ax before the cameras, because a conflict with the central government was blocking a road extension. He has been accused of corruption and mismanagement of funds by the opposition, including corruption in the granting of building permits.
Rama has also been criticized by a group of former SP politicians and some journalists for leading the party with authoritarian methods. During the 2007 municipal campaign, his rivals published some photos of Rama in intimate poses on a nudist beach in southern France.
Due to his flamboyance and rebellious ways Rama has often been accused of arrogance and elitism, especially at the start of his political career. In more than one occasion political opponents attacked him about his personal and family life, and even raised doubts about his sexual orientation.
In a 2002 town-hall meeting with actors from the National Theater, discussing whether the existing building needed to be demolished or not, Mayor Rama responded to the actors' requests to keep the existing building intact using sarcasm and suggesting that the actors might as well designate Violeta Manushi's underwear as a "cultural monument". Violeta Manushi, one of the icons of Albanian cinema, was 76 at the time.
On April 23, 2013, after a guest speech at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, Rama was involved in a physical altercation with Egin Ceka, a junior Albanian diplomat working for the Permanent Mission of Albania to OSCE. Mr. Ceka claimed Edi Rama physically assaulted him. The incident was later confirmed by the Albanian Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
On March 21, 2014, while former Prime Minister Sali Berisha was delivering a speech in the parliament, Rama was caught on a hot mic launching a series of insults towards him. Rama called the former Prime Minister a miscreant, a bastard, delirious, stupid and a dickhead.
On September 9, 2017 Rama nominated Gramoz Ruci as Speaker of the Parliament. Ruci had served during communist Albania first as the Workers' Party First Secretary for Tepelene district and then later as Minister of Interior . During his term as Minister of Interior, police forces shot and killed four people in an attempt to quell protests for democracy in Shkodra.
On November 2, 2017, during a parliamentary session, Edi Rama addressed former Prime Minister Sali Berisha and minority MPs using the words kýrie [κύριε] and palikári [παλικάρι]. Rama has repeatedly stated in the past he does not speak any Greek. In Albanian, these words translate into profanities.
On March 29, 2018, during a parliamentary session, Rama mocked the minority's attempt to organize large protests by comparing Albanians' unwillingness to protest tax increases, to erectile dysfunction.
"You are unable to block anything or stop anything. Moreover, when you start saying 'People will rise up here, people will rise up there', this thing about rising is like... you try to make it rise, you try to make it rise, but that poor thing has its head down and is not responding!" - Edi Rama
While mayor of Tirana, in 2003, Rama was a "visiting professor" as Robert C. Wood Visiting Professorship of Public and Urban Affairs at the University of Massachusetts Boston (basically a speaking and greeting format).
In December 2004, Rama was named the World Mayor 2004, in an international competition that took place over one year, based on direct voting by Internet, organized by the non-commercial organization CITYMAYORS, located in London.
In 2017, Rama received the highest French Honour, the order of the “Commander to the Legion of Honour”
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Edi Rama.|
.al, his official personal website
- Official Website of the Albanian Council of Ministers
- Archived webpage of the Municipality of Tirana
- The Albanian Renaissance Documentary
|Mayor of Tirana
|Prime Minister of Albania
|Party political offices|
|Leader of the Socialist Party