Student Protests to Resume against a Weakened Government

Tomorrow, January 7th, Albanian students are set to resume their daily protests following New Year’s holidays.

Students from universities throughout the country have announced gatherings and marches tomorrow morning. In Tirana, students will march to Prime Minister’s office.

Last Friday marked one month of students’ protests across the country. Students have asked the government to meet their 8 demands, which include raising the budget on education, reducing student fees, improving living conditions, and expanding students’ representation in universities’ administration.

Following several unsuccessful alleged attempts to subdue the protest, including mocking, insulting and dividing students, Prime Minister Edi Rama decided to arrange several meetings in some universities “to have a dialogue with students”. The meetings seemed to result in a backlash against Rama as students claimed he had come uninvited, unannounced and stealthily to these meetings. Many left the auditoriums where Rama sought to have an unwanted dialogue with them.

Students claim no dialogue is necessary to meet their very basic demands, which, according to them, are less of what Rama had promised during his electoral campaign before coming to power six years ago. Rama had continuously insisted on the necessity of a dialogue. On the other hand, they have insisted that this is Prime Minister’s way to have a students’ group seat with him and bring the protests to an end. Hence, they have resisted what they consider to be the pressure by the government and the media it controls, and have refused to be part in such a dialogue.

The Prime Minister’s next move was to announce that the government would meet all students’ demands, but he failed to present a concrete and convincing plan. Students claimed government’s response was partial, unsubstantial, unreliable and just another distraction. Voices calling for the retraction of the Law on Higher Education grew stronger among them.

Rama then dismissed more than half of his ministers, while students were on winter holidays, allegedly in another attempt to save face and distract the public attention from protests and several corruption allegations weighing on his government. President Meta decreed the dismissal of seven ministers but refrained from decreeing several of Rama’s new appointees.

Students are now returning to the streets tomorrow, seemingly even more determined than before. They have called on other protesting groups and all citizens to join them.

With several ministers missing, following his dismissal of eight of his 14 cabinet members, Rama’s government seems politically and technically weaker than ever in the face of growing protests.