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Albania: Parliament Elects New Speaker After Dokle Resigns In Protest

The Albanian parliament elected a new speaker on 30 April to replace Namik Dokle, who stepped down one day earlier following a constitutional court ruling against a parliamentary decision to oust the country's chief prosecutor. Alban Bala of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reports from Tirana.

Tirana, 2 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Servet Pellumbi is the new speaker of the Albanian parliament, following the 29 April resignation of speaker Namik Dokle. Dokle stepped down in protest after the country's constitutional court overturned a parliamentary decision to impeach Prosecutor-General Arben Rakipi.

Dokle defended his resignation as aimed at "protecting the dignity of the Albanian parliament and its morals." At the same time, Dokle accused the head of the constitutional court, Fehmi Abdiu, of allowing the country to sink under the pressure of mafia-style criminality and corruption.

Citing a novel by Latin American author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Dokle said in his resignation declaration that criminal elements are "trying to kidnap [Albanian] democracy."

"'Notice of a Kidnapping' is the title of the [Garcia Marquez] book and it tells the story of how Colombian drug barons kidnapped journalists and politicians, judges and priests, ballerinas, and ministers. Someone is trying to kidnap us as well, my respected fellow members of parliament -- to kidnap the ruling position of parliament, to kidnap the constitution, to kidnap our aspiration for democracy. This attempt should be stopped! This is the task of the Albanian parliament. Therefore, I today am resigning from my duties as speaker in order to protect, in the most modest way, the dignity of this parliament and to avoid any risk of crisis between institutions."

The political opposition called Dokle's resignation a victory for "Padrino" -- a mafia-like nickname for majority leader Fatos Nano, coined by his fellow Socialist Party member Ilir Meta during a highly publicized dispute for control of the party.

Former Albanian President Sali Berisha heads the Democratic Party, Albania's largest opposition group. He decried Dokle's resignation as a "black day" for Albanian politics.

"This day marks a black sign in the history of Albanian parliamentarism, in the history of democratic values; it marks the triumph of 'Padrino.' Mr. Dokle resigned, but because of 'Padrino,' because of the drug barons -- as he said himself, because of groups with criminal ties. This is a terribly calamitous warning for society and for Albanian democracy."

The opposition has advanced amendments to dissolve the constitutional court and transfer its duties to the Supreme Court until a new legal structure can be created.

The chairman of the constitutional court, Fehmi Abdiu, dismisses the proposed amendments.

"I declare that the constitutional court is absolutely not concerned by the tough criticism directed at us. We are deeply convinced that our decision [to overrule the parliamentary decision to oust Prosecutor-General Arben Rakipi] was in full compliance with the constitution and the law on the Constitutional Court. Political pressure has a position and a role to play. We as a court never recognized it as a decision-making factor, and will not give it any right to obstruct our activities. Moreover, I find that the thought, the idea, the concept of dissolving the constitutional court is absurd."

Pellumbi, the newly elected speaker, says he is confident the parliament will meet the challenges of the near future.

"Different deformations which are considered natural, especially in young democracies, do not frighten or weaken us. They simply empower our parliamentarian tradition, once they are handled justly. The strengthening of parliamentarism means the strengthening of the Albanian independent state institutions, and this is going to be the major challenge for this parliament, not only in terms of the three years remaining in our mandate, but in many other mandates."

Pellumbi said better communication and cooperation must be established between political forces in the parliament. He defined his role as "curving the sharp edges of the political table." But the opposition dismissed his words as "pure demagogy."

The 66-year-old Pellumbi is a prominent member of the ruling Socialist Party. A professor of philosophy at Tirana University for over 30 years, Pellumbi co-chaired the Socialist Party in opposition after the fall of communism. During party chairman Nano's serving of a four-year sentence for misuse of state funds from 1994 to 1997, Pellumbi served as the figurative party leader. He is recognized as playing a key role in expanding the party's program to encompass the ideas of Karl Marx.