Albanian opposition protesters hurl Molotov cocktails at prime minister's office

Albanian opposition protesters hurl Molotov cocktails at prime minister's office
Protesters gathered in Tirana as part of a campaign of civil disobedience against Prime Minister Edi Rama's government. / Flamur Noka via Facebook
By bne IntelliNews February 21, 2024

Opposition protesters clashed with police forces and threw Molotov cocktails at the Prime Minister's Office after an initially peaceful demonstration on February 20. 

The demonstration was part of a campaign of civil disobedience by supporters of Sali Berisha, opposition leader and former president and prime minister of Albania. 

The protest turned violent after Berisha, who is under house arrest while corruption allegations against him are investigated, delivered a speech to his supporters via video link.

Police said that some protesters threw stones, sticks, and Molotov cocktails at police officers as the protest ended. Some of the plants in front of the Prime Minister’s Office were set alight.

"They carried out violent actions during yesterday's protest, throwing pyrotechnics (capsules, flares, Molotov cocktails) at police officers and a state institution, four citizens were arrested in the act and six others were prosecuted while at large," a statement from the Albanian State Police said. 

Prominent opposition politicians who took part in the protest included Flamur Noka, Gazment Bardhi and Luciano Boci. 

Noka posted pictures on Facebook after the protest of one demonstrator with injuries around his eye socket. “Bandits in uniform should know one thing. Rama and [Interior Minister Taulent] Balla's terror against the grand protest should not be used violently against the innocents … Nothing is forgotten, especially this barbarism towards two innocent young people,” he wrote.

Prime Minister Edi Rama was absent at the time, on an official visit to Turkey. 

Rama’s Socialists have been in power since 2013 after winning three consecutive general elections. The opposition have accused him of rigging elections and capturing state institutions. 

However, the opposition has been weakened by internal conflict, as a power struggle between Berisha and rival politician Lulzim Basha for control over the Democratic Party tore it into two separate factions. 

In his speech, Berisha spoke of the opposition's determination to remove Rama and his government. 

"Today I am fighting for one of my children," Berisha said — referring to political pluralism in the country. 

"The opposition will win. Albania will win because it believes. Today marks the return of the DP [Democratic Party], because we won against an aggression that was done to us.”

Noka told the crowd that the opposition no longer recognises Rama as prime minister. 

“A person here who has ruled for 11 years, who has captured every office of power and state, who steals and buys the vote, who blackmails, shares the country's wealth like a festive cake, who is in charge of every affair, who gives millions of euros to his family, who travels by plane like a sheikh, paid for by your own taxes,” he said.