Albanian President Ilir Meta was involved in a scuffle with Tirana municipal police at the headquarters of the opposition New Democratic Spirit (FRD) party on March 12 as tensions rise ahead of next month’s general election.
Police were trying to evict the FRD, which has a coalition agreement with the main opposition party, the Democratic Party, from its offices in the Albanian capital. The FRD has refused to leave the offices, lent by the city authorities, despite receiving a request to leave.
Tirana is controlled by the ruling Socialist party, and the opposition claims the request to leave was politically motivated, coming shortly after the FRD signed the agreement with the Democrats. The municipality, meanwhile, says the building where the office is located needs restoration.
FRD leader Sali Shehu held a press conference on March 12, claiming the party had been subjected to police pressure in an attempt to evict it from the offices, according to local media reports.
Shortly after the press conference was broadcast, Meta arrived at the FRD office and ordered the police to leave. Video footage of Meta’s arrival shows the president and his entourage involved in a physical altercation with police officers.
After the incident, Meta gave a statement to the police, as quoted by Albanian Daily News, claiming police had attempted “to physically and psychologically violate any opposition force”, and calling on the opposition to wake up.
“I was passing by here by chance, you saw how the [FRD] chairman was attacked, in the presence of the president. Either enforce the laws, or you will end up like [former Egyptian leader Muhammad Hosni El Sayed] Mubarak’s cops,” Meta added.
Meanwhile, Tirana mayor Erin Veliaj, a close ally of Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama, told a TV show that Meta’s intervention was a “provocation” and that the president was “going through a phase of total degeneration, psychic, mental” and offered the services of the city’s rehabilitation programme for "alcoholic and violent men”.
“Allow me to not comment over this, because we are in the midst of the clinically grave show which seeks for humane solidarity with whomever and not only to someone who is the president of the republic that has clear issues,” said Rama, when asked by reporters about the events.
In a separate incident on March 14, supporters of the Socialists and Democrats clashed during Rama’s visit to the city of Elbasan when opposition supporters shouted “Rama leave!” at the prime minister.
The ruling Socialist Party remains in the lead, according to the latest poll from Euronews Albania and MRB, six weeks ahead of the April 25 general election.
Support for the Democratic Party continues to inch up, rising by 2.6 points compared to the previous poll to reach 30.8%. However, this is still more than 10 points behind the Socialists on 41.3%.
The third-placed Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI), formerly led by Meta and now headed by his wife Monika Kryemadhi, is on 7.6%, down by 2.7 points. The LSI will co-operate with the Democrats while maintaining separate candidate lists.
Asked who they would vote for if an election was held this Sunday, 17.9% of respondents said they will not vote, do not know or refused to answer.