MPs in Albania on Friday approved the country’s new women-dominated cabinet.
Following a 20-hour debate, the 140-seat parliament voted 77-53 for Prime Minister Edi Rama's new cabinet and programme.
The left-wing Socialist Party secured a record third consecutive mandate in an April 25 parliamentary election, with 74 seats. The centre-right Democratic Party got 59 seats in opposition.
Rama, 57, boasted in his speech that "this new government will enter history as the cabinet with the highest number of women" — 12 in the 17-member cabinet, propelling Albania to the top of global rankings in terms of the percentage of women holding cabinet positions.
According to the latest UN figures, 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.
Rama 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.
However, Rama warned that no minister would be favoured 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 government's main challenges will be completing the reconstruction process following the November 2019 earthquake and coping with the pandemic and its impact on the economy, as well as fighting corruption and drug trafficking, boosting growth to at least 4% annually, raising salaries and lowering unemployment.
The prime minister aims to turn the country into an energy producer and exporter and to diversify energy with solar and wind products. Rama also wants to make Albania by 2030 "an absolute champion of tourism in the Balkans".
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 agricultural products exports. The new parliament speaker is also a woman, Lindita Nikolla, a former education minister.
Albania, with a population 2.8 million, has been a NATO member since 2009 and hopes to launch full membership negotiations with the European Union later this year.