Regional Opposition Leaders Arrested for Blocking Prime Minister’s Motorcade

Police arrested 7 opposition Democratic Party (PD) officials and supporters last night in Përrenjas, 16 others were detained and later released under investigation.

Four leaders of the PD in Librazhd and Përrenjas (two party leaders and two secretary generals), a former PD MP, and three PD supporters were arrested on charges of illegal assembly, blocking traffic and hindering the electoral campaign of the governing Socialist Party (PS).

The arrests and detentions came after protesters chanting “Rama, go!” blocked the way for Prime Minister Edi Rama’s motorcade in Përrenjas. Rama was headed to a meeting with party supporters in Librazhd to announce the PS mayoral candidate for the city.

Amidst a deepened political crisis in the country, Prime Minister Edi Rama has repeatedly warned protesters that all those involved in attempts to hinder the political campaign of his party and electoral process of June 30 local elections will be arrested and banned for life from entering the EU and US.

On Monday, June 10, President Ilir Meta cancelled the June 30 local elections. Prime Minister Rama rejected the presidential decree, and yesterday the Albanian Parliament adopted a resolution condemning it, while urging the Central Election Commission to go ahead with preparations for June 30. The parliamentary opposition replacing the MPs of the two biggest opposition parties (PD and LSI) also backed the resolution.

Since they left the parliament in February, the opposition have protested against the government, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Rama, whom they accuse of vote-buying, links to criminal groups and corruption. They have also stated that they will not participate in any elections before Rama resigns, and they will not allow one–party elections to take place.

In his decision to cancel the local elections, the President argued that elections without the participation of the opposition would undermine the principles of democracy and risk potential civil unrest in the country.

The Socialist Party headed by Prime Minister Edi Rama has announced their plan to sack the President and continue with June 30 local elections. They have promised supporters that elections on June 30 will bring the biggest victory in the history of the PS after the fall of communist dictatorship in Albania. Rama has vowed to win all 61 municipalities in the country.

In a press statement today, leader of opposition’s Democratic Party Lulzim Basha announced that about 500 party officials and members have been detained in the last five months since the opposition left the parliament and started regular protests in February this year. 50 of them are kept in jail while awaiting trials.

Basha stated that arrests were “political reprisals” aimed to scare away from protesting those in opposition to the Rama “criminal regime”, and to incite them toward civil unrest in order to “strengthen [Rama’s] authoritarian rule”.

He added that “in this dangerous adventure”, Rama is supported by Minister of Interior Sandër Lleshaj and Temporary General Prosecutor Arta Marku.

[They] have turned the police and prosecution into political repression instruments at the service of Edi Rama’s personal corrupt power.

“There can be no more illusions: Rama has installed an autocratic regime,” Basha concluded.