President Barack Obama met with Socialist Party of Albania leader Edi Rama at a recent San Francisco campaign fundraiser. Rama is currently using a picture of the two politicians to help win next month’s Albanian elections and take over as prime minister.
Rama’s Socialist Party, which has been Albania’s largest opposition party since 2005, is reportedly expected to win the country’s June elections and unseat Democratic Party prime minister Sali Berisha, who has led the country since 2005.
Julianna Smoot, deputy manager for Obama’s 2012 campaign and major Democratic Party fundraiser, appears in the background of the photograph.
The photograph is believed to have been taken at a San Francisco fundraising event on the night of October 8, 2012.
Rama is believed to have attended the fundraiser as the guest of an Albanian resident of New Jersey named Bilal Shehu, who contributed $70,000 to the Obama Victory Fund 2012 on September 28, 2012. Shehu is listed as the co-owner of a small limousine company in Hawthorne, New Jersey, which could not immediately be reached for comment. Shehu, who has been photographed multiple times with Rama, according to his Facebook page, had never before donated to an American political campaign, according to FEC records — nor had his wife Aida, who contributed $10,000 to the Obama Victory Fund 2012.
On October 9, 2012, shortly after his rumored Pacific Time meeting with Obama, Rama tweeted in Albanian, “Ne fund nje takim i paharrueshem me Presidentin Obama! Fat dhe nder per shqiptaret ky mik i madh ne Shtepine e Bardhe.”
Rama’s tweet, translated to English, means, “At the end, an unforgettable meeting with President Obama! Fate and honor that Albanians have such a great friend in the White House.”
The United States reportedly “brought its influence to bear in Albania” last month in an attempt to end a stalemate surrounding the reconstituting of the nation’s electoral commission prior to the June elections.
Rama announced this month that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who developed the political slogan “the right thing to do” as the leader of the U.K.’s Labour Party in the 1990s, will act as a consultant to the Albanian government after Rama takes power. Albania hopes to soon join the European Union by implementing the kind of social reforms that Blair’s “New Labour” platform introduced after Blair’s election as prime minister in 1997, which included immigration reform to create “mass migration” to the U.K.