Tirana, Albania | 16 March 2019 (Tirana Echo) – Another massive protest called by opposition parties in Albania’s capital Tirana, has turned sour as a handful of demonstrators clash with police attempting to storm into the parliament building.
Thousands of opposition supporters marched through Tirana’s main boulevard calling for the departure of socialist PM Edi Rama and for early elections to be held in the small Balkan country. The Democratic Party (DP) and the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) accuse the Socialist Party majority of electoral fraud and links to organized crime.
Both parties gave up their parliamentary mandates last month in an unprecedented move which they hope would force PM Rama to stand down and make way for a transitory technical government.
In return, the socialists accuse opposition leaders of inciting violence and turmoil in order to block the establishment of an anti corruption special prosecutorial structure which is expected to go after high level corruption and political crime.
The structure is part of a milestone reform of the highly corrupt justice system backed by the European Union and the United States. Both condemned the abandoning of parliamentary mandates en-block, calling for candidates on electoral lists to break party ranks and take over the vacated seats in parliament.
Speaking to the crowd, DP and opposition leader Lulzim Basha said internationals should not listen to PM Rama but to the citizens of the country.
“I want to send a message to our international friends who have supported us during these 29 years. There is no stability without democracy. Do not listen to the corrupt advocates and the man whi sunk Albania into drugs, but listen to the voice of the free people and citizens of the country.” said Basha in concluding the protest.
Although opposition leaders had warned this would be the decisive protest which would “get rid of PM Rama“, the demonstration was largely peaceful with a handful of protesters attempting to later storm into the parliament building. After clashes with police, the crowd was dispersed by tear gas and water cannon, and later gathered at the Democratic Party headquarters.
Police have confirmed that 14 people have been arrested over the violent incidents.
Albania hopes to start membership talks with the European Union later this year, but the latest developing crisis may harm its EU aspirations and delay the opening of two crucial chapters of negotiations with Brussels on justice affairs, fight against corruption and the rule of law.
The EU and the United States have condemned the radical decision to give up their mandates and have appealed on the opposition to return to parliament and avoid violent acts and calls for further unrest in the small NATO country in the Balkans, where Russian meddling is seen as a growing threat.
Opposition parties have called people to join them on another protest in front of the parliament on Thursday March 20th.
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