Albanian opposition holds fresh anti-government protests

Albanian opposition holds fresh anti-government protests
By bne IntelliNews February 21, 2019

Albanian opposition parties held a new anti-government protest in the capital Tirana on February 21 asking for the resignation of the Socialist-led cabinet of PM Edi Rama and a snap general election.

The opposition is accusing the government of crime, corruption-related activities and anti-democratic rule. The new rally came after the opposition parties held a protest last Saturday, which turned violent and ended with 15 injured and several arrested.

The new protest was held amid a strong police presence. Thousands of supporters of the opposition parties led by the Democratic Party, surrounded the parliament building, which forced the head of the assembly to cancel the session to defuse tensions. 

The police rolled out barbed wire to protect the parliament building.

“There is no democracy, no parliament, no justice and the state has been captured by organised crime,” said DP leader Lulzim Basha.

During the protest, MPs from the opposition Democratic Party, the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) and other minor political parties signed letters of resignation from parliament. In total, 65 lawmakers have resigned.

Rama rejected the demand for an interim government and early elections.

Rama’s Socialists occupy 74 seats in the 140-seat parliament. The DP has 43 lawmakers and the LSI has 19 seats.

"The election will be held in 2021 as envisaged by the Albania's Constitution," Rama was cited by Albanian Daily News.

The EU and the US have warned Albania's opposition parties against violence during protests and their decision to abandon the parliament.

EU high representative Federica Mogherini and EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn issued a joint statement on February 21 before the protests, strongly denouncing any rhetoric by political leaders calling for violence.

“The decision by the opposition to relinquish their mandates seriously hinders the functioning of democracy in Albania. The parliament is the place where reforms and relevant developments should be discussed and taken forward, not boycotted,” they said.

According to them, these decisions undermine Albania's progress on its European Union path

Hahn and Mogherini urged the government and the opposition to engage in constructive discussions to overcome the current political crisis.

The US embassy said in a statement on February 19 that the threats by the DP, the LSI, and other opposition parties to abandon their mandates “undermine the basic principles of democracy and subvert the important progress Albania has achieved on rule of law and responsible governance.”

Albania, already a Nato member, is expected to launch EU accession talks later this year.

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