Mr Rama is a former mayor of the capital, Tirana. In the 2009 election he accused the Democrats of cheating him of victory. In 2011 he claimed to have won a new term as mayor, but the Democrats snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by adding in votes cast in the wrong boxes. A protest in January of the same year led to four Socialist supporters being shot dead by security forces firing from the prime minister’s office. Mr Berisha accused Mr Rama of trying to oust him by force.
In the past few years under Mr Berisha, spanking new roads and other infrastructure have sprouted across Albania. Cyclists zoom down bicycle lanes in central Tirana and along new roads in previously ramshackle towns like Shkoder, in the north. After the end of communism, Albania’s highways gradually disintegrated. When he was mayor Mr Rama also transformed Tirana, bulldozing many ugly and illegal buildings and painting dowdy communist blocks in bright colours,
Yet improved infrastructure could not save Mr Berisha. Besides the fatigue after eight years, a string of scandals undid him. Few bigwigs ever came to trial. One who did was Ilir Meta, leader of a small breakaway group from the Socialists that allied with Mr Berisha in 2009, enabling him to form a government. A tape was broadcast in which Mr Meta appeared to discuss a bribe and boast of his influence over the chief justice. He was tried and acquitted. In April he abandoned Mr Berisha to form a new alliance with Mr Rama, shocking many Socialists who feared it would hobble attacks on the government for corruption.