Albania claims global leadership for women in government

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Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama speaks during a debate at the parliament in Tirana, Albania, Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. Albania's parliament was to vote late Thursday to approve the new, female-dominated Cabinet of Prime Minister Edi Rama, with 12 of the 17 jobs going to women, propelling Albania to the top of global rankings in terms of the percentage of women holding Cabinet positions. (AP Photo/Franc Zhurda)

TIRANA – Albania’s parliament was to vote late Thursday to approve the new, female-dominated cabinet of Prime Minister Edi Rama, with 12 of the 17 jobs going to women, making Albania a global leader in terms of the percentage of women in government positions.

Rama, who secured a record third consecutive term in April, has pledged to return the country to economic growth, focusing on tourism and agriculture.

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His Socialist party holds 74 of 140 seats in parliament, and his choice of ministers was expected to be approved. Cabinets are always named several months after general elections in Albania, in a system designed to allow for a smoother transition of power.

“This new government will enter history as the cabinet with the highest number of women,” Rama said in his speech.

The 57-year-old politician has included women in top positions throughout his career, including during his tenures as culture minister, mayor of the Albanian capital Tirana, and as prime minister, a position he has held since 2013.

“With the confidence vote of the new cabinet Albania ranks in first place of the United Nation’s general classification for the number of women in the government,” he said.

According to latest U.N. figures available, dating from January 2021, Nicaragua topped the list at the time with 10 women among 17 cabinet members. Even then, Albania had ranked in 5th position with 9 women in a 16-strong cabinet.

However, Rama warned that no minister would be favored due to their gender, and that the length of their terms would depend solely on their performance in their posts, “without gender discrimination.”

Independent analyst Lutfi Dervishi said the next move should be to have women in the top posts of president and prime minister, which he said would change the outer world's view of Albania "as a conservative society, or a mostly Islamic one run by corruption.”

“There is a general perception that women are less inclined to corruption and abuse of post,” he added.

But some noted the lack of experience of some of the new cabinet members. Independent analyst Aleksander Cipa said public opinion was critical as some of the new appointees “come from anonymity” and were not known for any noted professional success or political career.

Rama has had “a constant preference in his political and executive career” with naming women to key positions around him, Cipa said, adding that this practice could be done in part for public relations reasons.

“He has felt better (working with women) due to his individual authority and he is more controlling in partnership with governing ladies,” he said.

The new government’s main challenges will be completing the process of rebuilding after a deadly earthquake in November 2019, and coping with the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the economy, which saw a 3.3% GDP fall in 2020.

Rama has also pledged to continue fighting corruption and drug trafficking, boosting growth to at least 4% annually, raising salaries and lowering unemployment.

His government aims to turn the country into an energy producer and exporter, and to diversify energy with solar and wind products.

Newcomer Delinda Ibrahimaj was appointed to run the country’s finance and economy portfolios.

Olta Xhacka keeps her post of foreign minister, as do Culture Minister Elva Margariti and Education Minister Evis Kushi.

Another newcomer, Frida Krifca, will run the Agriculture Ministry, with a goal of achieving $1 billion in agriculture products exports.

The new parliament speaker is also a woman, Lindita Nikolla, a former education minister.

Albania, with its population of 2.8 million, has been a NATO member since 2009 and hopes to launch full membership negotiations with the European Union later this year.

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