140 seek medical help after opposition rally in Albania

140 seek medical help after opposition rally in Albania
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje May 29, 2017

140 people have sought medical help after showing signs of poisoning following an opposition rally in Tirana, Albania's health ministry said on May 28. 

The causes are not yet known and the authorities are investigating. All the patients had taken part in the first pre-election rally organised by the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) on the evening of May 27, and DP leader Lulzim Basha was among the patients.

In its latest statement issued on May 28, the health ministry reported that 14 of the 140 patients that sought medical help were hospitalised in the ophthalmology department at the Mother Teresa clinical centre, but their condition is stable.

Patients complained of eye redness and pain, dizziness, vomiting, blurred vision and breathlessness.

Previously the health ministry announced that 76 sought medical help in early hours of Sunday, immediately after the rally on the Martyrs of Nation Boulevard in Tirana.

The ministry has also been working to identify cases in regional hospitals and health centres across the country, and found out that four people had reported similar symptoms in Elbasan and five in Durres.

Basha told journalists on May 28 that he had talked to many of those affected, and that the effects were only temporary. 

“We are doing our own analysis … But I can tell you that it is the duty of state authorities to hold the perpetrators accountable, whoever they are,” Basha said according to a PD statement. He also pledged that the party would continue its election campaign. 

The Democrats had threatened to boycott the June 25 election since February, demanding a caretaker government to prepare for a free and fair election. They said that otherwise the ruling Socialist Party could buy votes with money gained by criminal activities, while the Socialists argued that the DP was staging the boycott to delay ongoing judicial reforms. 

However, the DP decided recently to participate in the upcoming election after striking a deal with the Socialist Party, which made a number of concessions to the Democrats including a reshuffle of the government and the appointments six DP nominees as technocratic ministers and one deputy minister.

The deal with the Socialists also opens the way for implementation of the EU-required judicial reforms.