Thousands protest against Albanian PM as EU slams opposition

260 views
Albania’s national flag is seen after an anti-government protest in front of the Democratic Party headquarters in Tirana, Albania, on Thursday. — Reuters

TIRANA — Thousands rallied in Tirana against Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama on Thursday, as the EU condemned opposition mass resignations over alleged corruption by the premier.

A heavy police presence was deployed around the parliament in Tirana after a similar opposition rally over the weekend had turned violent.

The protesters, who accuse Rama of corruption, lit flares and shouted “Rama go away!” during Thursday’s march, but no violence was reported by journalists on the ground.

The protests come as Albania teeters toward a political crisis following Monday’s announcement of a mass resignation by members the opposition Democratic Party and Socialist Integration Movement.

The EU condemned the move as a threat to democracy.

“The decision by the opposition to relinquish their mandates seriously hinders the functioning of democracy in Albania,” EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn warned in a joint statement.

“These decisions and acts are counterproductive, go against the democratic choice of Albanian citizens and undermine the progress the country has made on the European Union path,” it added.

They urged the government and opposition to start “constructive discussions” to resolve the crisis.

But the leader of the main opposition Democrat party, Lulzim Basha, defended the move and showed little willingness for reconciliation during a speech at the rally.

“Today the country does not have a legitimate parliament,” he told a cheering crowd. “I will never accept an agreement with a bandit like Rama.”

Ahead of the protest, the prime minister accused the opposition of “deliberately creating conflict” before local elections in June “because they do not have the means to face the citizens’ votes”.

Albania’s politics is fraught with verbal and sometimes physical violence.

Last year, the opposition party boycotted parliament for six months until December, and when they did return, one of the party’s MPs hurled eggs at Rama as he addressed the assembly.

Earlier this month, another opposition politician splattered the premier — who has been in power since 2013 — with ink before being removed by security guards.

Albania hopes to open accession negotiations with the European Union this year, but the government is under pressure to tackle organized crime and corruption. — AFP


260 views