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UPDATE: Albania Opposition Protests Again Demanding New Election

UPDATE: Albania Opposition Protests Again Demanding New Election
Image by Vinie007

The opposition is holding another protest this evening in front of Prime Minister Edi Rama’s office.

Tens of thousands of protesters chanted “Rama, go!” and held yellow starts of the European Union flag and balloons reading “Go!”.

Last week the European Commission recommended the EU to open accession negotiation with Albania. It is not clear whether all EU member countries will vote unanimously on such a step. Albania has failed twice under Rama’s government to get the accession negotiations open.

In his speech, opposition leader Lulzim Basha said that “the time for excessive words is over,” possibly referring to seven open letters Prime Minister Rama sent him.

Basha said the government has undermined the education and research system in Albania, created an unfriendly and corrupt business environment where a few oligarchs control the economy, raised unemployment levels in the country, made it impossible for Albanian farmers to survive, raised all taxes, and further ruined the health system through lack of investments and corrupt concession contracts.

He further denounced several allegedly corrupt tenders (Outer Ring Road and Milot–Balldren Road) awarded to companies close to Prime Minister Rama, according to him.

Basha repeated accusations that the government colluded with criminal gangs in buying votes in the last elections in 2017. He called on Rama to resign and let free and fair elections take place. Referring to the June 30 elections, which the opposition has boycotted, he said that Albanians will never accept single-party elections.

He added that oligarchs and criminals cannot hold Albanians hostage for the sake of their collusion with Rama to plunder the country. The only way to end the crisis in the country is a solution according to European standards, Basha said, “organizing free and fair elections” under a transitional government after Rama’s resignation.

The opposition leader stated that they will put in place a “European contract of conviviality”, which will restore Albanians’ dignity and welfare.

Basha ended his speech by asking protesters to march peacefully toward the parliament building.

UPDATE:

Protesters threw firecrackers and flares at the parliament building, and police responded with tear gas and water cannons.

Minister of Interior Sander Lleshaj blamed the opposition leader Lulzim Basha and called on him to “stop the attack against the police”. Lleshaj said that a police officer was injured. He added that protesters had large amounts of money to buy prohibited explosives, as well as the full will to attack the police.

Journalists on the ground reported that several protesters and police officers were injured.

In his closing speech at the Democratic Party headquarters, visibly under the effect of tear gas, Lulzim Basha said that political leaders of the Ministry of Interior had ordered the disproportionate use of force against protesters. He added that those responsible will be held accountable.

Protesters dispersed after Basha’s final call on Prime Minister Rama to resign.

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