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Albanian opposition set to continue anti-government protests

More demonstrations expected on Monday after opposition leader Lulzim Basha called on all Albanians to join them.

Protests have continued in Albania (AP/Hektor Pustina)
Protests have continued in Albania (AP/Hektor Pustina)

Albania’s centre-right opposition has continued protests calling for the resignation of the government and for an early parliamentary election.

Leaders of the country’s Democratic Party-led opposition decided to reconvene to object to the arrest of a senior party official during Saturday’s anti-government protest. They are trying to organise nationwide rallies for Monday.

Democrats’ leader Lulzim Basha called on all Albanians to join them in Monday’s evening protest.

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“Barbarous violence against hundreds of protesters… will get tomorrow the proportional response from the united and determined people,” Basha said, speaking in front of hundreds of supporters at the Tirana police department.

Police arrested 50 people, while 31 others were detained and later released, for acts against police and public buildings.

Saturday’s protest turned violent, with opposition supporters using Molotov cocktails and police using tear gas and water cannons. Protesters and police officers were injured.

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The opposition accuses the Cabinet of Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama of being corrupt and linked to organised crime, which the government denies.

Rama denounced the violence, adding that “Albania is damaged.”

He backed the actions of police during Saturday clashes except for “two-three seconds of an incident when two police officers used the baton.”

At a news conference Sunday, the prime minister brought up a 2011 rally where National Guard officers deployed by the Democratic Party-led government shot and killed four supporters of Ramas’ Socialist Party, which was in opposition at the time.

The opposition has been holding national protests since mid-February and smaller ones every week across the country, complaining of the corrupt government officials and of vote stealing in parliamentary elections two years ago.

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.

The European Union office in Tirana appealed for calm following the unrest. It called “on protesters and their political leaders to show responsibility and restraint. Differing political points of view need to be handled through debate and dialogue”.

PA

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