Albanian police disperse opposition protest with teargas

Head of the Democratic Party Lulzim Basha (L) and former Prime Minister Sali Berisha (C) and supporters of the opposition are affected by tear gas released by police in front of the parliament building during a protest in Tirana, Albania, 26 February 2019. [Malton Dibra/EPA.EFE]

Albanian police used teargas Tuesday (26 February) to disperse hundreds of opposition protesters who tried to prevent ruling Socialist MPs from entering parliament.

“We will be back, our battle will continue until this government is overthrown,” Lulzim Basha, leader of opposition Democratic Party, told the crowd as clouds of tear gas moved them away from the police cordon.

The anti-government protesters tried to break the police cordon several times and threw smoke grenades and rocks at the parliamentary building, guarded by a heavy police contingent.

“Rama, go away!” they chanted, referring to Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama. The protesters, who turned out in response to a call by opposition parties, demand Rama’s resignation and the formation of a transitional government that would be tasked with organising early elections.

The opposition accuses Rama, in power since 2013, of corruption and links with organised crime.

Opposition lawmakers from both right-centre and left-centre parties quit the parliament accusing the government of having manipulated the results of legislative elections in June 2017.

Albania's opposition MPs to resign in protest

Albania’s centre-right opposition said Monday (18 February) its MPs would resign from parliament, the latest in a series of dramatic protests against Prime Minister Edi Rama, who they accuse of corruption.

“This parliament is illegitimate,” Monika Kryemadhi, the leader of the Movement of Socialist Integration, told protesters, urging them to meet again outside parliament on Thursday.

Leftist and rightist parties in Albania are known for exchanging insults and accusing one another of corruption or links to the organised crime.

Rama told local media in Tirana that “desperate opposition efforts…(and) actions could be fatal for the opening of June negotiations” for membership in the European Union.

Albania hopes to open accession talks with the EU this year, but the country of 2.8 million people is required to make a significant progress in fight against corruption for the negotiations to start.

The Socialists have 74 MPs in the 140-seat parliament.

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