The Albanian parliament descended into chaos on April 12 as opposition MPs pelted Prime Minister Edi Rama and other cabinet ministers with eggs and flour during a discussion of the arrests of protesters against the country’s first toll road.
The introduction of a toll on the new highway to Albania’s border with Kosovo has become one of the country’s most contentious political issues. The opposition Democratic Party, which has a highly acrimonious relationship with Rama’s Socialist Party, has seized on the issue and along with the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) said it will launch a campaign of civil disobedience.
On April 11, opposition MPs decided to block the work of the parliament and not allow Rama to speak, in protest against the arrest of 11 people during the riots in Kukes over the new toll on March 31.
In an angry address to the parliament, Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha accused Rama of promoting murderers and rapists to official positions and protecting drug traffickers, while allowing “11 innocent kuksianë [Kukes residents]” to be locked up.
As the discussion became more heated, opposition MPs threw eggs and flour at Rama and other ministers before being removed from the chamber by security guards. During the chaos in the parliament, Bushati threw water at the opposition, and was also removed.
Bushati and six opposition MPs have now been banned from attending parliament sessions for the next 10 days, Top Channel reported.
Rama reacted after the decision in a Facebook post saying “For us, the rules are the same for all”.
However, he defended Bushati, saying that “he instinctively reacted today to an ugly aggression and he was wrong! He made a public apology and was still punished.”
Rama gathered all his ministers late on April 12 to discuss the tense situation in the parliament, according to Albanian Daily News.
The Democratic Party and the LSI also held an urgent meeting after the chaos in the assembly to discuss their further strategy.
The political standoff is likely to continue, as the two opposition parties said last week they plan to protest within the parliament against the arrests in Kukes. They have already made the arrests of the 11 protesters into a cause célèbre in Albania.
The March 31 protest against the tolls — which at €5 for vehicles and €22.5 for trucks are considered by many Albanians to be too high —erupted into violence, and ended with toll booths being burned and dozens of people injured. The toll has also sparked criticism in neighbouring Kosovo, where business representatives say it will inhibit trade between the two countries.