Albanian opposition demands fresh polls in anti-govt rally

Washington Post

Albanian opposition parties on Saturday held a protest in Tirana, calling for the left-wing government to resign and for an early parliamentary election.

Thousands of supporters of the center-right opposition gathered in front of the main government building at Tirana’s main Martyrs of the Nation Boulevard, holding anti-government posters.

They threw flares, firecrackers, Molotov cocktails and other projectiles. Police used tear gas when a group of protesters broke the police cordon and headed for the building’s entrance. President Ilir Meta called on protesters “to avoid acts of violence and confrontation.”

Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj wrote on Twitter that “democracy is not built with Molotovs, which aim at destroying Albania. But that is impossible!” The opposition accuses Prime Minister Edi Rama’s Cabinet of being corrupt and linked to organized crime, which the government denies.

Opposition Democrats’ leader Lulzim Basha called on his supporters to continue the protest until Rama resigns and a transitional cabinet is formed to take the country to an early election.

“We are determined there will be … no election with Edi Rama,” Basha said. Opposition lawmakers relinquished their seats in parliament in protest, though many have now been filled by other opposition candidates. The governing Socialists have 74 seats in the 140-seat parliament.

In June, Albania expects an answer from the European Union on whether full membership negotiations will be launched, and also holds municipal elections.
The protest is the fourth national demonstration since mid-February. Regular, smaller ones are held weekly across the country.