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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09TIRANA9
2009-01-09 07:37:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Tirana
Cable title:  

PRESIDENT TOPI: IT'S LONELY AT THE TOP

Tags:   PGOV  PREL  KDEM  KJUS  PHUM  AL 
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VZCZCXRO2922
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHTI #0009/01 0090737
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 090737Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY TIRANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7740
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 3539
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 2429
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0778
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TIRANA 000009 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/08/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM KJUS PHUM AL
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT TOPI: IT'S LONELY AT THE TOP

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Stephen A. Cristina, reasons 1.4 (b) a
nd (d)



1. (C) SUMMARY: Although generally regarded as the most
respected political figure in the country, President Topi
occupies a precarious and lonely position as President of the
Republic. Elected by the Parliament in 2007, Topi sees
himself as a defender of the constitution and independent
democratic institutions - a position that has led to frequent
clashes with the ruling Democratic Party. During a January 6
meeting with Charge d'Affaires, President Topi described his
political isolation, saying that the recent debate over the
controversial Lustration Law threatened to irreparably damage
his political standing and future within his own Democratic
Party. Topi lamented the lack of an effective political
opposition in Albania, describing the Socialist Party as
essentially "invisible" in that role. Topi noted that his
efforts in the spring of 2008 to bring the squabbling
Socialist and Democratic parties together had ironically
resulted in a joint SP-DP effort to diminish the authority
and power of the presidency via constitutional amendments
adopted in April of 2008. END SUMMARY.

A Unique Role


--------------------------





2. (SBU) The Albanian presidency differs in important ways
from that of most other parliamentary republics. Elected by
the Parliament, the president, although far weaker than the
Prime Minister, has the power under the constitution to
nominate the Prosecutor General as well as judges to the
Supreme and Constitutional Courts. The President can also
veto legislation, although the Parliament needs only a simple
majority vote to override the veto.

Lustration Law Leaves Topi Politically Exposed


--------------------------

-



3. (C) Topi told Charge that the current debate over the
Lustration Law had left him badly exposed politically. Topi
said the ruling Democratic Party (DP) would savage him in the
event he vetoes the Lustration Law, claiming he has heard
reports that DP activists will be brought in to demonstrate
against Topi and pelt his office with rocks. Topi claimed
that although he has numerous allies within the DP in
Parliament, not one would vote to uphold a veto in the event
Topi rejects the lustration law. Instead, Topi said that DP
MPs would follow PM Berisha in lock step to override a Topi
veto out of fear that Berisha will exclude the MPs from DP
party list in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Topi
also expressed fear that his opposition to the Lustration Law
could cost him the support of one of his main political bases
- people persecuted by the Albanian communist regime. Topi
repeatedly claimed that in the event he vetoes the Lustration

Law the DP would launch "a frontal assault" against him,
including a smear campaign to paint him as protecting former
communists.

"SP and DP Colluded Against Me"


--------------------------





4. (C) Topi said he could not count on support from the
opposition leader Edi Rama and his Socialist Party either,
which Topi described as timid and in collusion with Berisha
to undermine the power of the presidency. Topi recalled how
in April of 2008 he brought the SP and DP together to pass
much needed constitutional changes, but claimed that PM
Berisha and Edi Rama used the opportunity to reduce the power
of the presidency and make future presidents more accountable
to the ruling party in Parliament. (NOTE: One major
constitutional change was to require only a simple majority
vote rather than a two-thirds majority vote to elect the next
president, thereby giving the majority party in parliament
the ability to ram through its own presidential candidate
instead of seeking out a compromise candidate acceptable to
the opposition, as Topi and previous presidents were. END
NOTE).



5. (C) Topi lamented the current timidity of the opposition
Socialist Party, describing the SP as nearly "invisible" in
the role of opposition party. Topi said this unwillingness
by the SP to act had increasingly forced him into the role of
opposition, something that has brought him into frequent
conflict with the Prime Mininster and further undermined
Topi's position and future within the Democratic Party.

TIRANA 00000009 002 OF 002



In Defense of Independent Institutions


--------------------------





6. (C) Topi said he sees it as his duty as President to
defend independent institutions such as the Prosecutor
General. Topi said this had repeatedly brought him into
conflict with his own party, but added "I think some
principles come first." Topi said he would continue to
defend the Office of the Prosecutor General against political
and media pressure, but said that constitutional amendments
passed in 2008 reduced his ability to defend the PG and other
independent institutions.



7. (C) COMMENT: While PM Berisha was a member of the
communist elite, Topi was not even a party member and his
family, both immediate and extended, were persecuted by the
communists. He finds himself now in an absurd position where
if he vetoes the law, Berisha will paint him as a defender of
the communists. Topi's political isolation is further
compounded by his political ambition. Topi sees himself as a
potential successor to Sali Berisha as the next head of the
Democratic Party, thus explaining Topi's reluctance to get
into a public brawl with the DP over the Lustration Law.
Topi is clearly torn between his political ambitions on the
one hand and his duties to defend the constitution and
Albanian democracy on the other. How he handles the
Lustration Law will be his most difficult balancing act yet.
CRISTINA