Albania Parliament cancels plenary amid fears of violence planned in opposition protest

Tirana, Albania | 20 Feb 2019 (Tirana Echo) – Albania’s Parliament has cancelled its plenary session planned for tomorrow morning, amid fears for violent incidents against MPs and social unrest which may be provoked by opposition supporters, following warnings by intelligence services and international partners.

In an unusual press conference commenting internal political developments, Speaker of Parliament Gramoz Ruçi confirmed he has cancelled tomorrow’s plenary due to information of violent incidents planned during a massive protest called by opposition parties in front of the parliament building.

I observed Saturday’s protest and have been following with great concern the actions of opposition parties to give up their parliamentary mandates. We are also worried by the preparations of the opposition to protest tomorrow in front of the parliament. Given the appeal by our strategic international partners as well as information provided by the country’s intelligent services, I ask all MPs to understand my decision to cancel tomorrow’s plenary session.” said Speaker of Parliament Ruçi.

Ruçi said that the latest developments are damaging Albania’s image across the world and added that political power cannot be won under the table but through democratic votes.

Earlier in the day, the Albanian Police said it has information of criminal elements planning to incite violence during tomorrow’s protest by entering the parliament building and warned their officers will respond with the full strength of the law against anyone who engages in illegal acts of violence against state institutions.

The State Police is fully engaged in guaranteeing public order and the integrity of state institutions during the protest. From information gathered by relevant security services, there are fears of violent acts being planned by criminal elements. There is information that some aim to break into the parliament building and exercise violence against parliamentary staff charged to secure and protect the fundamental institution of democracy.” read the statement by Albania’s police department.

Albania’s Ministry of Interior is currently assuring public opinion that the police officers and special forces will respond proportionally and with the full strength of the law to any violence witnessed tomorrow while it is taking all necessary measures to identify any individuals who are planning to break the law and bring them to justice accordingly.

The State Police have asked citizens to call 112 if they have information or witness any illegal violent acts during tomorrow’s protest.

The drastic decision to cancel tomorrow’s plenary come as opposition Democratic Party and Socialist Movement for Integration have warned they will give up their parliamentary mandates and protest tomorrow in front of the parliament, following an earlier protest last Saturday which turned violent.

Opposition parties demand the resignation of Prime Minster Edi Rama whom they accuse of being linked to corruption and criminal groups which helped him come to power in 2017.

PM Rama and his ruling party have defied opposition calls for early elections and accuse its leadership of seeking to obstruct the reform of the justice system and the start of membership talks with the European Union, which Albania hopes to get by the end of the year.

The United States and the European Union have called on individual opposition MPs to reject their party leadership line arguing the extreme decision would “undermine the basic principles of democracy and subvert the important progress Albania has achieved on rule of law and responsible governance.

European Union leaders agreed last June to start membership talks with Albania and Macedonia within 2019 if both small Balkan nations show substantial progress in their crucial rule of law reforms under way.

While Macedonia has agreed to an historic name change deal with Greece and looks set for accession talks, it is yet unclear whether member states will agree to formally opening accession negotiations with Albania which needs to get its act together in fighting endemic corruption and political links to organized crime.

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