Albanian opposition steps up protests with road blockade

Albanian opposition steps up protests with road blockade
By bne IntelliNews April 24, 2017

Supporters of Albania’s opposition Democratic Party (DP) held a mass protest on April 24, blocking a junction where five major roads meet. 

DP supporters were pressing for a caretaker government to be formed ahead of the June 18 election. The DP has been threatening to boycott the general election unless Prime Minister Edi Rama from the governing Socialist Party resigns and opens the way for caretaker government to organise a free and fair election.

The roads were blocked by protestors from 11.00 until midday local time.

“Hundreds of citizens chose to join the protest. This is a clear sign of our determination to free the country from the tyranny of crime, drugs and corruption and to open a path for a free and fair election through a caretaker government," DP leader Lulzim Basha said in a party statement.

Basha and his wife joined the protest at the Tirana square and expressed gratitude to all citizens that participated in the one-hour protests, labelling it a “patriotic act”.

“Without a technical government there is no other choice for Albania,” Basha was cited as saying earlier. 

Basha announced that new protests will be staged soon. No incidents were reported during the latest protest.

Former prime minister from the Democratic Party Sali Berisha said that the protest was a “great success”.

“The revolution is headed towards a victory,” Berisha was cited by Albanian Daily News.

The Democrats have been protesting daily in a marquee in front of the prime minister’s office in Tirana since February 18. They are also boycotting the work of the parliament.

Earlier this month, media reported that Albania's governing coalition, led by the Socialist Party, officially asked Europe's centre-right party of which the DP is a member to persuade the DP to agree to talks on resolving the political crisis and to participate in the June general election.

The Democrats claim they fear the governing party will buy ballots with drug money. However, Rama has accused the party of organising the protests and the boycott in a bid to block judicial reforms currently being adopted. 

Holding a free and democratic election and implementation of judicial reforms are key steps for Albania to launch EU accession talks. Albania has been an EU candidate country since June 2014.

The opposition boycott is effectively blocking the institutions in the EU-aspiring country. On April 19, the Albanian parliament also failed to elect a new president as no candidates were nominated in the first round of voting.

The lack of candidates came as no surprise because the ruling majority was not expected to name anyone, in an attempt to reach a deal with the DP on a consensus candidate.

The mandate of the current president, Bujar Nishani, who came from the ranks of the Democratic Party, expires this year. 

 

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