TIRANA, Albania — Former Albanian President Bujar Nishani, often criticized for his political affiliation with the centre-right left-wing coalition, has died following a serious health problem, the country’s presidential office announced on Saturday. He was 55 years old.
President Ilir Meta wrote on Facebook that he learned “with sadness and deep regret of the death of President Bujar Nishani”.
“President Nishani will always be remembered as a personality with rare values of a leader of integrity and vision. His contribution to Albania and democracy will always be remembered with respect,” Meta wrote.
No further details have been released, but a month ago Nishani traveled to Germany for treatment of a serious liver condition.
Nishani served as president from 2012 to 2017. At 45, he was elected post-communist Albania’s youngest and sixth president, backed only by lawmakers from the then prime minister’s center-right Democratic Party, Sali Berisha. Opposition lawmakers boycotted the vote, demanding a consensus candidate.
Albanian presidents are elected to the 140-seat parliament.
Prior to that, Nishani served as the country’s interior and justice minister.
Born in the port city of Durres, 20 miles west of the capital Tirana, Nishani graduated from the military academy and later law school. He first taught at the military academy, then held senior positions in the Albanian Ministry of Defence. His political career began a few years before he was elected MP in 2005.
Nishani, who has always kept a low profile, has often been criticized by the left-wing Socialist Party for being too close to the Democrats.
“European Albania is the greatest expectation of our citizens because a European Albania will be the country of guaranteed freedom, a European Albania will be the country where rights are protected by law and order, the country where the free market strengthens businessmen every day,” Nishani said in his inaugural speech as president.
Yet there has been little change in the country’s judicial system during his tenure, even though this has always been seen as the country’s Achilles’ heel in its journey towards European Union membership.
Due to constant political wrangling between Berisha’s Democratic Party and Edi Rama’s Socialist Party, Nishani rarely attempted to reach a compromise between the two opposing political camps. His appointments of the main generals, judges and prosecutors of the Albanian army were controversial and always in accordance with Berisha’s wishes.
Nishani was not in top physical condition after surgery in 2008 for a cerebral cavernoma, a vascular abnormality of the central nervous system, according to his doctor, Dr Mentor Petrela. The disease left Nishani’s left foot and arm partially non-functional.
Nishani is survived by his wife, one son and one daughter. There was no immediate word on funeral arrangements.