“The US Ultimatum” Threatens Political Pluralism in Albania

By Marjana Doda

While this year marked the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Albanian-US diplomatic relations as well as the establishment of the Democratic Party (DP) by Mr. Berisha which both marked the political pluralism in Albania, today after 3 decades the US closed his political curtain by declaring him persona "non grata".

The historical leader and one of the main politicians in post-communist Albania - President of the Republic (1992-1997) and Prime Minister in two terms (2005-2013) - was also declared persona "non grata" by the current president of Democratic Party, Mr. Lulzim Basha on the eve of the 10th parliamentary legislature.

The Albanian Parliament convened in its 10th legislature on Friday with former DP leader Sali Berisha the "star of the show" after he was expelled the night before (September 9) from the Democratic Party parliamentary group according to a personal decision of the party chairman, Lulzim Basha.

Cheered by dozens of supporters before entering the hall of Parliament on Friday morning, Berisha assured party members that he would wage a fierce battle to restore legitimacy in the DP, the largest opposition political force in Albania. He warned that the decision against him to be expelled from the parliamentary group is null and void. He stressed that his expulsion came as a result of the Rama-Basha compromise.

"I will take any initiative within the DP to bring it back to the pedestal it deserves. As you can see, I am a member of the DP parliamentary group. The decision which resulted from the Rama-Basha compromise is null; it has no legal support other than moral filth in bargains behind a political force. I can enter the PD headquarters at any time and be sure that the day will be very close when the DP will regain all the strength, all the determination, the legitimacy, disperse a governing clique based on crime, fabrications, vote manipulation and dirty bargaining with those who turned the DP into the façade of the opposition," Berisha said.

"You can buy and sell Edi Rama, Lulzim Basha, but never the DP and the Albanian democrats. This is final. You are hopeless with the acts behind your back that you have made with Lulzim Basha," said Berisha.

He reiterated that he was more determined than ever to restore the Democratic Party and establish the legitimacy robbed by Rama-Basha.

"The man who sells the Democratic Party in dirty bargains with Edi Rama will get the answer he deserves. My next move is a statutory move. The movements are different, but this is the emergency; the Democratic Party will establish the legitimacy robbed by Rama-Basha," said Berisha, who spoke three times to the media which were eager to listen to him.

Some 24 hours ago Lulzim Basha made his last act by closing this 30-year pluralism with the "assassination" of his "political father", the founder and historical leader of the Democratic Party founded in early 1900s as the communist regime was falling in Albania against the background of the historical changes across the Eastern Europe and the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

"I have decided that until the completion of the review of the legal request for transparency and the full clarification of this issue in court, Mr. (Sali) Berisha will not be a member of the Parliamentary Group of the Democratic Party."

This was the gist of a long statement made by the leader of the Democratic Party (PD), Lulzim Basha, who decided to overthrow Berisha. Basha hastened to declare that the DP is the most pro-American and most pro-European party, talking about the decision of the US State Department on the former Prime Minister and former leader of the DP Berisha which declared him and his family persona non- grata, as well as the request of the American Ambassador, Yuri Kim to expel him from the DP parliamentary group.

Berisha called it "null and void", invalid Basha's decision to expel him from parliament. "The decision does not comply with any statutory and legal norms. Basha had to convene the DP Congress, change the statute and pass an article which sanctions the exclusion of persons declared "non grata" by the US or any other country. This article does not exist and he declared a decision that is null because it is his ruling and not of any of the DP forums," Berisha said on the TV channel "Syri net" on Thursday evening.

Berisha said that Basha's decision to expel him from the DP parliamentary group is the annihilation of this party as a sovereign opposition

Basha has been threatened with sanctions. He has decided to ruin the DP. He has sold out its sovereignty because of the corrupt lobbying of Edi Rama and George Soros, its sovereignty. ‘Sali Berisha has followed only one path, I have followed the judicial path. I did not ask for any help and have made it clear to the chairman. I demanded transparency.”

Further on he said: "With this decision, for his own interests, Basha gives the biggest blow to the DP and Albania. This is now an opposition façade. He should have resigned before making this decision. The DP today is nothing but a satellite of Edi Rama," Berisha said on Thursday evening.

Mr. Berisha spoke about the threat of US sanctions against Basha in case he did not take this decision, and this has been confirmed by Lulzim Basha himself. While communicating his decision to expel Mr. Berisha from the DP parliamentary group, he stressed that he was under pressure from Philip Reeker who came only with the request to expel Berisha on the table and did not accept any negotiations.

Gazeta Panorama.al has uncovered the full debate of the meeting in the hall. In the beginning, it was the chairman of the Democratic Party, Basha who clarified the decision made by him. He said Thursday was the deadline set by the US to make a decision.

Lulzim Basha: The decision against Berisha was the most difficult decision for me. You know very well my relationship over the years with Berisha. We have made some achievements together. The decision was made only in favor of the Democratic Party. I did not want to split the Democratic Party, so I made a personal decision. I am telling you that I have Gazment Bardhi and Jorida Tabaku as witnesses. When Philip Reeker came to meet me at the party headquarters, he came only with the request to expel Berisha and did not accept any negotiations. Today was the deadline when the DP had to express itself.

Regarding what Basha seems to have expressed at the headquarters of the Democratic Party, we recall the statement of Mrs. Yuri Kim after the meeting with Mr. Lulzim Basha at the headquarters of the Democratic Party at the end of July when among other things, she recalled the meeting with Mr. Reeker but for the first time the US Ambassador publicly asked Mr. Basha that Mr. Berisha be no part of parliament.

"I had a very good and comprehensive discussion with the Chairman of the Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha today. It was following the meeting he had when Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Phil Reeker was in Tirana. We talked about the strength of Albania-US relations, the very important role that the Democratic Party has played in establishing US-Albania relations and the importance of Albania staying on its path to Europe. I would also like to emphasize the responsibility of party leaders to ensure that when they enter that parliament, they are accompanied by members who are worthy of representing Albania. It would be a historical irony but also a tragedy for the country, not only for the party, if the party were to eat grass for the sake of a man's personal interests. Our hope is that the parties will move forward, that this country will move forward, that cooperation between the United States and Albania will move forward.

The future is waiting. There are difficult decisions ahead for everyone. I hope everyone can rest well during August, but I also hope that when they return fresh and renewed in their determination to choose the future over the past," said Kim.

But the question arises: Why did not Mr. Basha resign if he really does not agree with the decision taken by himself and if he was not threatened?

Which is the threat made to Mr. Basha?

Is it legitimate for a sovereign country, a legitimate institution in a democratic country to be under threat and pressure for political progress by the US Embassy or from the State Department?

We are not just talking about the sovereignty of a political party that should function through its statute, and not diplomatic ultimatums, be they across the Atlantic, but we are talking about the danger that threatens the sovereignty of the opposition today.

This form of ultimatum by the US is an unprecedented act in these 30 years of pluralism which today more than ever is endangered by the superpower and unbridled support given to the ruling Socialist Party led by Prime Minister Edi Rama. The dictation of the US Embassy in Tirana on “Rama-Basha” cooperation strips politics of its opposition status and undermines it, taking Albanians 3 decades back.

It seems that former Prime Minister Berisha will be the only opposition in front of the "Rama-Basha" duo.

If this is the goal of the US, then the mission has been successfully accomplished.

See you in 2030!