Fatos Nano is a former Prime Minister of Albania and former leader of the Socialist Party of Albania. Like his rival Sali Berisha, Nano emerged as a leading figure in Albanian politics following the collapse of the communist regime. Like Berisha he has been a major actor for over fifteen years, with multiple terms in power. And, like Berisha, he has been accused of corruption, manipulation of elections and failure to improve Albanians' standard of living. The youth movement MJAFT which began its campaign for civic activism while Nano was in power, have often criticised and made fun of him and his policies.
Nano was born in Tirana in 1952. Under the communist regime he was a well known economist at Tirana University where he did his PhD and taught as a professor. In 1991 President Ramiz Alia chose Nano as the prime minister of the technical government meant to prepare the country for democratic elections. He resigned in June amidst calls by trade unions for a general strike. At the tenth congress of the Albanian Labour party, in June 1991, the party was formally dissolved. The Socialist Party became its legal successor and Nano was elected as the new party's first chairman. He held this post for over 14 years, only resigning on September 1 2005.
In July 1993, Nano was imprisoned for misuse of public funds. Former communist leader and Albanian president Ramiz Alia met with the same fate. Berisha finally pardoned and released Nano in the middle of the 1997 crisis and appointed him Prime Minister. After parliamentary elections in July 1997 Rexhep Mexhani succeeded Berisha as president and made Nano his Prime Minister.
On September 12 1998 a Democratic Party MP, Azem Hadjari, was gunned down outside of the DP's headquarters in Tirana. DP supporters engaged in violent protests outside government ministries which led to confrontations with the police.
"The Democrats accused Nano of being directly responsible for Hadjari's assassination. On September 14 Hadjari's supporters attacked the prime minister's offices and temporarily seized control of government buildings and state radio and television. Nano abandoned his post and vanished for two days, fleeing to Macedonia. After his return to Tirana, the prime minister vowed not to resign and accused Berisha of a coup attempt. On September 18 the Socialist controlled parliament voted overwhelmingly to lift Berisha's immunity, clearing the way for his arrest. Amid fears that Albania was on the verge of reverting to the political and civil chaos that engulfed the country in 1997, the international community warned Nano against arresting Berisha. Nano's decision to flee Tirana and seek refuge in neighbouring Macedonia had seriously undermined his already diminished authority. With his plans to arrest Berisha thwarted and facing increased opposition from within his own party, Nano resigned on September 28."
("The New European Diasporas: National minorities and Conflict in Eastern Europe" edited by Michael Mandelbaum, 2000)
The Socialist Party remained in power and Nano returned for his third term as prime minister in July 2002. In February 2004 the largest demonstrations seen in Albania since 1997 were held, demanding Nano's resignation. The crowds in Tirana, estimated at up to 20,000 people, chanted "Nano, go!". The prime minister was accused of corruption and electoral fraud. His rival Berisha called him "the enemy of the Albanians…it is he who is stifling the hope of the Albanians" (BBC article, 2004).
Nano also became the target of a MJAFT protest after changing the state protocol to award his new wife the title of "First Lady of the Republic", taking it away from the president's wife. To mock the move MJAFT, dressed 50 volunteers as brides. These gathered in front of the premier's office to protest and demand a chance to become 'first lady' too. The day after, MJAFT was sued for 'illegal assembly'. To comply with the charges, MJAFT surrendered the organizer of the rally – a store front mannequin - at a public press conference.
The Socialist Party suffered a heavy defeat in the July 2005 parliamentary elections and Berisha replaced Nano as Prime Minister. Fatos Nano also stepped down as party leader in September 2005. The Socialist Party is now led by the major of Tirana, Edi Rama. Nano has by no means left Albanian politics. In 2007 he defied the majority of his own party by standing as a candidate in the parliamentary vote to appoint the new president. His bid was unsuccessful. He earned only three votes in the first round of voting and five in the second.