Fresh opposition protest in Albania amid calls for civil disobedience and early elections

DP chair Lulzim Basha and historic leader Sali Berisha during an opposition protest in Tirana

Tirana, Albania | 06 March 2019 (Tirana Echo) – Fresh protests in front of Albania’s parliament have taken place in Tirana by opposition parties, demanding fresh elections and the departure of socialist PM Edi Rama.

The protest gathered thousands of opposition supporters and was calmer and less violent than the 3 previous demonstrations, however, protesters intensified their calls for PM Rama to step down and give way to a provisional government which would prepare free and fair early elections, accusing his ruling socialists of vote-rigging during the last elections and links to corruption and organized crime.

Speaking to his supporters, Democratic Party Chair Lulzim Basha said the only political solution is sending the ‘parliament of crime’ home and the imminent departure of the source of problems Edi Rama, otherwise the people will rise up in civil disobedience.

His departure is the end of the first phase of this battle which will continue with the largest unification of hope and faith Albanians have known these decades. The regime of Edi Rama has ended. I call on all Albanians to be part of the decisive protest on 16th March which will accompany the political corpse of this criminal sect.” said Basha to a cheering crowd.

The rally comes as almost all opposition MPs gave up their parliamentary mandates sending the country into an unprecedented political crisis which takes place months ahead of local elections and before a crucial upcoming decision by Brussels to start official talks for EU membership.

Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) chairwoman Monika Kryemadhi asked people to protest against each plenary session at the parliament and called on the police to remove their uniforms  and not stain their hands with the blood of citizens.

Do not think that citizens are scared from your tear gas, neither are they scared of your bullets, just like in 1997, because justice is with the citizens and the youth who want to build a future in Albania. May God protect you and may God protect Albanians,” said Kryemadhi.

Inside the plenary session, PM Rama said he would not step down and that the “mandate won by the will of the people is not for grabs and cannot be negotiated,” calling on the opposition to prepare for local elections in June and show their true electoral strength.

However, former PM and historic leader of the democrats Sali Berisha said this was another extraordinary protest and warned Rama should go before it gets ugly.

We are returning freedom to Albanians and Rama’s days are numbered. He would do well to leave during the day, because we are not sure where he would end up if he has to leave by night. The leadership of the opposition determines protests and the revolt has captured the hearts of citizens,” – Berisha told journalists during the protest

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 a ‘decisive’ protest in front of the parliament on March 16th.

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