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Thousands of Albanians protest against left-wing government

Flares, firecrackers, Molotov cocktails and other projectiles were thrown.

Protesters clashed with police in Tirana (Hektor Pustina/AP)
Protesters clashed with police in Tirana (Hektor Pustina/AP)

Thousands of supporters of Albania’s centre-right opposition have protested in the capital Tirana, calling for the left-wing government to resign and for an early parliamentary election.

The protesters clashed with police at several points and reporters saw some people injured.

The protest began in front of the main government building in Tirana’s Martyrs of the Nation Boulevard.

Flares, firecrackers, Molotov cocktails and other projectiles were thrown. Police used tear gas when a group of protesters broke the police cordon and headed for the building’s entrance.

After two hours, opposition leaders led the protesters, in smaller numbers, to the parliament building, where they continued to throw Molotov cocktails and firecrackers.

Police responded with tear gas and water cannons, quickly clearing the main entrance area.

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Riot police secured the area outside the Parliament (Hektor Pustina/AP)

Ambulances were seen taking injured protesters away but there was no immediate information on numbers of casualties.

President Ilir Meta called on protesters “to avoid acts of violence and confrontation”.

Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj wrote on Twitter that “democracy is not built with Molotovs, which aim at destroying Albania. But that is impossible!”

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

Opposition Democrats’ leader Lulzim Basha called on his supporters to continue the protest until Mr Rama resigns and a transitional cabinet is formed to take the country to an early election.

“We are determined there will be … no election with Edi Rama,” Mr Basha said.

Mr Rama tweeted that he considered the protest violence as a “sadness”, adding that “Albania is damaged”.

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Flames from a petrol bomb thrown towards a police line (Hektor Pustina/AP)

The protest continued into the evening with no clear end in sight.

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.

In June, Albania expects an answer from the European Union on whether full membership negotiations will be launched, and also holds municipal elections.

The protest is the fourth national demonstration since mid-February. Regular, smaller ones are held weekly across the country.

PA

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