Opposition MPs set off flares, build chair barricade in Albanian parliament

Opposition MPs set off flares, build chair barricade in Albanian parliament
/ Ervin Salianji via Facebook
By bne IntelliNews November 2, 2023

There were chaotic scenes inside the Albanian parliament on November 2 when opposition MPs lit flares and built a barricade of chairs in front of the podium. 

The session was intended to discuss the budget for 2024, put forward by the ruling Socialist Party. Opposition MPs claimed the budget only benefitted the Socialists and people associated with the party, and disrupted the session in opposition leader Sali Berisha called a “temporary strike”. 

As shown in video footage from the session, Berisha’s supporters created a barricade of chairs, blocking the floor of the parliament. Opposition MP Ervin Salianji let off flares, creating clouds of purple smoke. 

The session continued, with the Socialist MPs delivering speeches as planned and voting on draft laws and decisions. Throughout the speeches, Berisha's supporters shouted and banged on the chairs piled in the middle of the floor. 

Salianji explained the reasons for the protest, telling Top Channel: "It is a budget for people associated with the Socialist Party. Therefore, on the day when the budget is discussed, the Socialist Party has a holiday to eat baklava.” 

He added that the opposition plans to continue its protest within the parliament. "Day by day we are escalating the parliamentary action and we will escalate every other action,” said Salianji.

Police officers arrived at the parliament to gather evidence and the Prosecutor's Office has started an investigation. 

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

Earlier this week, verbal confrontations escalated into physical clashes in the afternoon session of parliament on October 30, when opposition MPs obstructed the pulpit as speaker Lindita Nikolla began reading the agenda. The situation deteriorated into a physical altercation when Socialist deputy Vullnet Sinaj was interrupted by Democratic Party deputies. Democrat Bledion Nallbati was expelled from the session for punching Sinaj. 

Berisha, a former prime minister and president of Albania, is a controversial figure, who has been sanctioned by the US alleged involvement in corruption. 

Berisha served as Albania’s prime minister from 2005-2013 and as president from 1992-1997. He stepped down as leader of the opposition Democratic Party in 2013, after it lost power to Rama’s Socialists, but announced his intention to return as party leader following the party’s latest general election defeat in 2021. Since then, the party has been torn apart by political infighting between Berisha and his rivals. 

In October, Berisha and his son-in-law, Jamarber Malltezi, were been charged for corruption and money laundering.