Tens of Thousands of Albanians March Against the Government

Tens of thousands of Albanians are marching against the government of Prime Minister Edi Rama. This is the second large rally called by the opposition following that on February 16.

Protestors have gathered in Tirana’s main boulevard in front of the Prime Minister’s Office. According to reports, the government has deployed about 1,600 police forces. The art work at the entrance of the PM Rama’s office as well as the main door have been covered and reinforced with metal panels. In addition, high resolution cameras have been installed in the area.

Police refused to approve opposition’s request to hold a rally today.

Prime Minister Edi Rama has left Tirana during both protest: one month ago he staged a meeting with Socialist Party members and government employees in Vlora while today he is holding a meeting with tour operators and travel companies in Berat.

Following opposition’s announcement of today’s protest, Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj postponed celebrations of the national holiday Summer Day (March 14) to coincide with opposition’s protest (March 16 and 17) arguing more favorable weather forecasts for the weekend.

As usual, yesterday the US Embassy and EU Delegation in Albania called for peaceful protests. In its statement, the EU delegation opposed opposition’s decision to vacate parliamentary seats and falsely implied that 93% of Albanians were also against it.

“[…] We consider that the decision to relinquish parliamentary mandates seriously hinders the functioning of democracy in Albania, and it affects the EU integration of the country – a perspective fully shared by 93% of Albanian citizens.”

The US Embassy’s statement also condemned opposition MPs resignations and urged the “new opposition” of MPs in party lists to take their seats in parliament. The US Embassy’s statement seems to contradict US State Department’s report on human rights of few days ago which harshly criticized the Albanian government’s poor record in several fields, including corruption, vote buying and impunity of high officials.

“The United States Embassy views the current government and parliament of Albania as legitimately elected through the internationally recognized elections of 2017. […]  As those former members of parliament, who decided to resign their mandates, have relinquished their obligations to the citizens of Albania, they should allow those willing to work for the future of the country to do their jobs.”

Albanians are protesting in support of opposition’s call for new elections and prosecution of party officials, who were revealed to have bought votes in collaboration with criminal gangs in the 2017 general election, as well as for an end to government corruption and prosecution of those involved.