Four Socialist gov’t ministers replaced, including interior and healthcare cabinet seats
- The incoming ministers are Fatmir Xhafa at the interior ministry, Olta Xhaxhka in the social welfare and youth ministry, Eduard Shalsi in the local government ministry and Ogerta Manastirliu as health minister.
TIRANA, March 13 – Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said Sunday he was dismissing four ministers from his cabinet, including Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri and Health Minister Ilir Beqaj, two powerful figures in the Socialist-led government, who have come under attack by the opposition over allegations of corruption.
Blendi Klosi, the welfare minister, and Bledi Cuci, the local government and anti-corruption chief, were also dismissed in what Rama said were changes driven by the need to prepare for the next elections.
Rama said the dismissals were not performance-related, calling Tahiri “a champion” for his work in reforming the state police.
Rama also said the government changes were not an answer to the ongoing protest the opposition is holding to seek a caretaker government to guarantee free and fair elections.
Lulzim Basha, the opposition leader, said only Rama’s resignation will satisfy the opposition’s demands, adding the sacked ministers were “scapegoats.”
Rama also dismissed media reports that the changes came as a result of requests by Ilir Meta of the Socialist Movement for Integration, his chief coalition ally.
The incoming ministers are Fatmir Xhafa at the interior ministry, Olta Xhaxhka in the social welfare and youth ministry, Eduard Shalsi in the local government ministry and Ogerta Manastirliu as health minister.
Xhafa is a member of the old guard in the Socialist Party, serving as the head of a key commission in parliament.
Xhaxhka and Shalsi are MPs close to Rama.
Shalsi, a chief spokesman for Rama since his deputy mayor days at the Tirana Municipality, is reviled in civil society circles for his role as chief advocate for the import of recyclable waste into Albania.
Manastirliu is a newcomer to high level politics. She currently serves as director of the country’s largest hospital. She previously worked under Rama when he was Tirana mayor.
The cabinet now also has two more women ministers than it did before.