Albanian interior minister tells opposition MPs to stop starting fires in parliament or face prosecution

Albanian interior minister tells opposition MPs to stop starting fires in parliament or face prosecution
MP Flamur Noka set fire to papers in the Albanian parliament, prompting speaker Lindita Nikolla to end the session. / Flamur Noka via Facebook
By bne IntelliNews December 5, 2023

Opposition MPs could be sentenced to up to five years in prison if they continue starting fires in the parliament, Interior Minister Talent Balla said after the latest attempt by the opposition to disrupt a parliamentary session.

MPs set off flares inside the Albanian parliament and one deputy set fire to a pile of papers on December 4, as part of a series of acts of civil disobedience by the opposition. 

Opposition frustrations have erupted after over 10 years of Socialist rule in Albania. Prime Minister Edi Rama's party has been in power since 2013, winning three consecutive elections.

As in previous incidents, MPs arrived in the assembly early and piled chairs in the centre of the chamber. MP Flamur Noka went to the floor of the parliament waving a flare while fellow MPs from the ruling Socialist Party were trying to speak. A security guard intervened to remove the flare from his hand, but Noka physically rebuffed him, footage from the parliament shows. 

Speaker Lindita Nikolla then ordered Noka’s exclusion from the plenary session, but instead of leaving, Noka started setting papers on fire, dropping one onto the stack of chairs. The guard extinguished the flames, and Nikolla ended the parliamentary session.

“Civil disobedience to the narcotic state is the only way to make it kneel. Where justice does not punish, where tyranny becomes a fact, resistance and overthrow is a duty,” Noka wrote on Facebook after the session. 

“The Penal Code clearly defines in articles 151 and 154 the criminal offenses of intentional destruction/damage of property with fire and other means, which are punishable by up to five years in prison,” Balla wrote on Facebook afterwards. 

“While these aggravating acts are repeatedly referred to in the Prosecutor’s Office, the institution of the prosecution must ensure the law applies equally to all and the MP can never evade the law, benefiting from or hiding behind immunity!” 

In early November, opposition MPs twice also lit flares and built a barricade of chairs in front of the podium in an attempt to block the 2024 budget. Previously, on October 30, verbal confrontations escalated into physical clashes