When Edi Rama became mayor of Tirana in 2000, he confronted a population that was disillusioned with the way democracy had played out in the capital city. Albania had sunk into a political morass after a brief period of cheer that followed the eastern European country's emergence in the early 1990s from decades of isolation under a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship. But change was in the air at the start of the millennium, as national reforms began with the support of a forward-thinking prime minister. Seizing the moment, Rama aimed to restore public confidence in government by building an administration based on professionalism rather than political connections, sprucing up the drab city, improving services, encouraging citizen complaints and leading open discussions on Tirana's future. He repaired city hall, cleared out public spaces, painted colorless communist-era apartment buildings in bright hues and planted thousands of trees. Although his reforms lost momentum after Albania's leadership changed and he became more deeply involved in national affairs, Rama's accomplishments as mayor demonstrated the value of responsive, participatory government in regaining citizen support and attacking entrenched municipal problems.
Tumi Makgetla drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Tirana, Albania, in June 2010.
Associated Interviews: Dritan Agolli