Tirana, Albania | 16 Feb 2019 (Tirana Echo) — A massive rally called by Albania’s opposition parties has turned violent as its supporters clash with police and break the entrance to the PM office building.
Thousands of protesters gathered by the Democratic Party and its smaller opposition allies marched through Tirana’s main boulevard, calling for the resignation of socialist prime minister Edi Rama whom they accuse of being corrupt and linked to criminal groups.
DP supporters broke police lines and threw petrol bombs and other hard objects towards the PM office, later bringing down the scaffolding intended to protect the main entrance doors. Although a handful of protesters broke the door glass, they failed to enter inside the building.
While the police did not prevent the crowd from approaching government buildings, they called on people to disperse and threw tear gas across the large crowds calling for the departure of PM Rama.
Speaking to thousands of supporters in Tirana’s main boulevard, Democratic Party Chairman lulzim Basha said the opposition wanted the resignation of the socialist government, a temporary government and early elections “in order to restore democracy through a Parliament elected by the will of people and not the money or the threats of the criminals.”
Commenting after the protest, Prime Minister Edi Rama said it was sad to watch how foreign media had portrayed the opposition protest.
“The blind policy of an opposition without vision, without a programme and without leadership, did nothing to the government, but damaged Albania across the world and gave reasons to celebrate to all those who are against us starting membership talks with the EU.” Wrote Rama on Twitter.
The United States, the European Union and other international institutions had called on the opposition to hold a peaceful rally and later condemned the violence displayed by some of its supporters.
The European Union Delegation and Member States Embassies in Tirana issued an immediate statement as the protest was ongoing, calling on all sides to show immediate restraint.
“The right of the citizens to express themselves through peaceful protest is a core value of a modern European democracy. However, damaging public property and resorting to violence are not acceptable. We urge all sides to do their utmost to avoid further violence and disruption.” said the EU.
Albania hopes to formally start membership talks with the EU later this year, however, member states have conditioned negotiations on tangible progress in the fight against corruption, organized crime and a steady progress of its milestone reform of the justice system.
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