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The leadership of the opposition Democratic Party (PD) under Lulzim Basha has voted to expel ex prime minister and president Sali Berisha from the party.
In a meeting that lasted into the early hours of the morning, the leadership also voted to expel members of the Provisional Committee established after the December 11 convention initiated by Berisha in order to oust Basha. The seven-member committee was created to oversee the PD’s transition until new party leadership is elected at a convention in March.
Some 20 long-term PD members were additionally suspended, including Belind Këlliçi, Agron Shehaj, and Edit Harxhi—all three ran against Basha in June 2021 for the party’s top leadership position.
On Saturday Berisha led a crowd of supporters to the PD headquarters in Tirana. They then attacked the building, smashing windows, and broke down the door with a battering ram, crowbars, and a sledgehammer. Special forces and state police dispersed the crowd after one hour with gas and water cannons and made over 30 arrests.
PD leadership argued that the events on Saturday had endangered the lives of several members who were inside the building at the time, as well as the lives of those PD member who had participated in the protest. All decisions will need to be approved by the PD’s National Council.
The dispute came after PD Chairman Lulzim Basha unilaterally dismissed Berisha from the parliamentary group following the latter’s destination as persona non grata by the US for “significant corruption”. Pressure from the US and even the EU led to Basha taking the decision the night before parliament resumed in September, without putting it for a party vote.
Berisha responded by vowing to take back the party’s leadership and oust Basha. Both sides have voted to expel the other, and both claim they have the only legitimate rights.
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