Ilir Meta has been sworn in as Albania's new president during an extraordinary session of parliament in the capital, Tirana.
Upon taking office for the mostly ceremonial role, the 48-year-old Meta vowed to respect democracy, push for reforms, and to defend Albania’s independence.
"For the new president, Albania and democracy will always be the first," he said after taking the oath.
Meta has been parliament speaker and leader of the junior governing party, the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI), which he founded in 2004.
After being elected by parliament on April 28, he handed over the party leadership position to his wife, Monika Kryemadhi.
Although he resigned from the party leadership, some critics raised questions about whether he can remain politically impartial, as required in the presidency.
He regularly criticized his former ally, Prime Minister Edi Rama, during the recent parliamentary elections. Rama's Socialist Party secured a governing majority in the parliamentary vote.
Meta has been widely described as a kingmaker in past coalition governments.
Meta, trained as an economist, previously served as Albania's prime minister, at age 30, and also was the minister of foreign affairs and the economics minister.
The country’s presidency is limited to two five-year terms.
Based on reporting by AP, VOA, and The Tirana Times