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Albania Opposition Protest Under Strict Security Measures

Police blocked a large area in the centre of Tirana on Tuesday while thousands of opposition supporters protested outside parliament, calling for Prime Minister Edi Rama's resignation.
Leader of the Democratic Party in opposition speaks to his supporters during a protest in Tirana on 5 March 2019. Photo: Gjergj Erebara/BIRN

A large police force blocked roads leading to Albania’s parliament early on Tuesday where the ruling Socialist Party MPs were holding a plenary session while anti-government protesters rallied outside calling for the government to step down.

Amid fears that the opposition-led rally would descend into violence as last week’s demonstration did, police and protesters came prepared with gas masks. While no major incidents occurred, some protesters did burn tyres and throw smoke bombs at police, causing them to release bursts of tear gas.

Lulzim Basha, leader of the opposition Democratic Party, addressed his supporters on an improvised platform.

“Edi Rama is gone, his regime is gone,” he told protesters who chanted “Rama Go!”

“The only political solution is that the rascal Edi Rama should go,” Basha added.

Inside the parliament, Rama rebuffed calls for his resignation, saying that “we [the government] are within our rights.” However, he added that “We [the government] are ready to talk”, although stressing that “we won’t negotiate the mandate that we got from the majority.”

During the plenary session, four new MPs took their oaths to substitute some of the opposition MPs that resigned in protest in late February. All of the new MPs belong to the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI), the third largest party in Albania.

Under Albania’s closed-list system, when an MP resigns, another one from the respective party list take his place. While scores of candidates from both the opposition Democratic Party and LSI had followed the party lines and resigned, some others had accepted the offer to become MPs, resulting in them being branded as “traitors” by their respective parties.

PM Rama said on Twitter after the protest that he aims to use his upcoming trip to Italy to boost the country’s image after what he called “shameful violence from the opposition parties.”

The opposition have announced another protest on March 16.

An opposition supporter waves a US flag in front of a police cordon near Albania Parliament in Tirana during a protest on 5 March 2019. Photo: Gjergj Erebara/BIRN
Protesters and journalists try to escape the effect of tear gas sprayed by the police during a protest in Tirana on 5 March 2019. Photo: Gjergj Erebara/BIRN
Protesters burned tires and threw smoke bombs against police in Tirana on 5 March 2019. Photo: Gjergj Erebara/BIRN

 

 

Gjergj Erebara