Tens of thousands of citizens joined the fourth large scale protest called by Albania’s opposition today in capital Tirana. Protesters are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Edi Rama and for free fair elections to take place.
Protesters gathered in front of Prime Minister’s office at 18.30 amidst heavy presence of police forces surrounding the area. Protesters threw firecrackers, flares and Molotov cocktails to Prime Minister’s office building.
Opposition leader Lulzim Basha called on Prime Minister Rama to resign and open the way to a transitory government that could hold free and fair elections. He said that Rama had hijacked Albania and blocked its path towards European Union. Basha denounced the Rama government’s links to organized crime and its corruption.
Basha’s speech was interrupted by the tear gas fired to the crowd of thousands following attempts by some protesters to get closer to the building’s doors. Basha called on protesters to refrain from clashing with police. He then retook his speech once the tear gas had dispersed.
Prime Minister Rama wrote on social media that he was very saddened for the state of the opposition. He added that Molotov cocktails can do no harm to the government, but they harm the country.
President Ilir Meta urged both the protesters and police to refrain from clashes and violent acts.
Minister of Interior Sandër Lleshaj warned protesters that “no one can set Albania on fire again”. He said that the use of Molotov cocktails meant that protesters’ aim was “to destroy Albania”.
The police has systematically and indiscriminately used tear and water cannons to disperse protesters since the opposition vacated the parliament. Elderly, children, women, passers-by and journalists have been either directly targeted by gas canisters or caught in the midst of tear gas clouds in city center.
The opposition left the parliament in February and has been staging weekly protest demanding Rama’s resignation. They accuse the government of buying votes in the 2017 Election in collusion with criminal groups. Despite leaked prosecution wiretaps published by the Voice of America, which appear to prove opposition’s claim, no arrests were made.
Albania is set to hold local elections in late June. The opposition has refused to participate and it says it won’t allow any elections to take place with Rama as prime minister.
Protesters are now still in front of Rama’s office in their tens of thousands, calling on him to step down.