Tirana, Albania | 21 Feb 2019 (Tirana Echo) – Thousands have protested against Edi Rama’s socialist government as opposition MPs formally resign their parliamentary mandates en-block, further spiraling the political crisis in the small Balkan nation.
As expected, thousands of opposition supporters gathered in front of the plenary hall of the parliament in Tirana this morning, calling on PM Rama to resign and asking for early elections to be held in the small Balkan country.
Contrary to what was initially prompted to be a violent protest by Albania’s intelligent services and foreign embassies, the huge rally was peaceful and kept under control by opposition leaders.
However, more than 2000 police and special forces officers were fully mobilized, following previous intelligence warnings of violent acts planned against state institutions.
Speaking to huge crowds of opposition supporters, Democratic Party chairman Lulzim Basha said this is the beginning of the end of Edi Rama as prime minister and that it would be in his interest to depart now and make way for a technical government and early free and fair elections.
Basha also addressed diplomatic representatives in Tirana who had earlier condemned the opposition’s decision to abandon their parliamentary mandates.
“Do not ask of me to accept what you would never accept in your own countries. We are not people of violence. We are people of freedom, democracy and people of Albania. But we will never accept a thug caught robbing the will of our people together with traffickers, we will never accept someone who has been caught stealing hundreds of millions from the pockets of poor Albanians who cannot raise their children.” said an angry Mr. Basha to his cheering supporters.
The DP leader added that PM Rama has to go and that he will face corruption charges soon and warned protests will continue across other cities in Albania.
“This is only the beginning for Edi Rama. He will be facing justice and I ask of the State Police to halt his departure from the country. The law and the constitution are products of the sovereign people. Their implementation is the duty of the state. When the state fails to do its job, the people have to take over,” said Basha, later calling his supporters to follow him and other MPS to the Parliament’s administrative headquarters in order to hand in the resignation letters from their parliamentary mandates.
Last night, Parliament Speaker Gramoz Ruçi cancelled today’s plenary amid fears of violent incidents against MPs and social unrest which may be provoked by opposition supporters, following warnings by intelligence services and international partners.
Mr. Ruçi said 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 yesterday, 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.
Following intelligence reports, the European Union issued a statement criticizing the decision by Albania’s opposition parties to resign their parliamentary mandates en-block, and cautioned against any violent acts during the mass protest held today in Tirana.
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.”
Most diplomatic missions in Tirana have warned their citizens to stay away from the protest, given fears of incited violence which may occur.
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.
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