This evening, thousands of Albanians have taken to the main boulevard of Tirana at the behest of President Ilir Meta.
The protest was called due to a string of Constitutional violations that Meta says the government are using to consolidate power and execute a “coup d’etat”.
Starting at 5pm, the main boulevard from the city gradually filled with several thousand attendees and citizens held bunches of yellow mimosa flowers and waved the Albanian flag.
Opposition leader Lulzim Basha said he was there in his capacity as a citizen, not as a political leader and he thanked all of the citizens that attended the protest. Ex Prime Minister Sali Berisha was also in attendance.
Some 1000 police officers including rapid intervention units and armoured vehicles were on site in anticipation of unrest. Police cordoned off the Prime Ministers office and many more stood guarding the perimeter. Traffic police had blocked off the entire boulevard, allowing protestors to congregate.
Speeches were given by President Ilir Meta, who before descending on the boulevard spoke via video stream and referred to a “red and black spring” and that he will not stop until sovereignty is restored. He called for freedom and democracy for Albania, like in all of Europe.
Renowned actor and activist of the National Theatre Neritan Licaj started the speeches by explaining that the protest is in defense of the Constitution, freedom and Albania. He said that today’s action is the biggest ‘red and black’ front against the coup and the collapse of Albania’s institutions.
Legal scholar, ex-Venice Commission member, and ECHR judge Ledi Bianku detailed four reasons why he attended and spoke at the protest. The first and most important, he stated was because there is no Constitutional Court in Albania and the need to protect the Constitution.
“I have not come to the conclusion that the debate between the President and the majority is right or wrong, but the debate on the Constitution raises another very big problem. Without an independent Constitutional Court, the Constitution remains a letter without any importance,” he said.
He added that citizens are unable to present their claims to an independent body, as well as the President and that it was being abused for reasons of power and constitutional power. Noting that for two years, the government has been able to act without any institutional or constitutional supervision or control, Bianku said that it brings into question the rule of law in Albania.
He concluded that without any courts to control the law, Albania is in an “absurd situation”.
“I was reminded of a phrase by a prominent jurist: ‘people sleeping in a democracy are in danger of waking up in a dictatorship’, he said.
Albania’s former UN Ambassador, Agim Nesho then addressed the crowds, criticising the governing majority and urging the Opposition to make changes. He said that the violation of the Constitution should be an alarm bell for Albanians from all political leanings and told them to protect it from “the tyranny of the majority”.
‘Today, Albania is aging, hope for the future is being slaughtered, polarization of the economy, autocracy of power, crime ties with politics, in a country where the one-party regime has seized the institutions, but accountability to the people has been wasted on propaganda where transparency is lacking,” he said.
Actor Bujar Kapexhiu took to the podium and said he had never been a member of any political party and never would be and that he only has interests in the good of Albania.
“We have come together for two actions: to defend and not to accept, for the protection of the law, morality and against evil,” he said.
“We took the worst of dictatorship and we invented the worst of democracy…I call on true intellectuals, all together to defend what is right, to defend the Constitution.”
He said that Albania is in the grip of a single party and that Albanians should “come together and fight for ourselves, our children and Albania.”
Albanian boxing champion Christian Demaj also spoke, saying that while he was not born in Albania, his heart beats red. He called on Albanians all over the world to return to their country and join the cause.
“My heart beats for this youth who must build a future here….all together in defence of democracy, in defence of the Constitution,” he said.
Actor Edmond Budina said he is not attending in defence of the President, but rather the Constitution. He referred to the current situation as a “neo-dictatorship” and that in 30 years since the fall of communism, he still dreamed of what he protested against then.
“Thirty years ago we had a dream to make Albania like all of Europe, after 30 years I come back here to make Albania again like Europe, to save it from this new dictatorship that is desecrating the country.”
He added; “We must not allow our country to be emptied…we are here to tell the neo-dictatorship that it will not win, no matter how it tries to establish its own sultanate.”
Finally, President Meta took to the stage and said that Albania is divided into two antagonistic worlds; a small, dark world of oligarchs who drink citizen’s blood and “dreaded PPP concessions”.
He described corrupt concessions that “are intended only to rob Albania” and the “mafia abduction of the Constitutional Court”. This, said Meta was so the government could ensure their constitutional crimes went unpunished.
“We are here against the coup”, he said.
Meta said he had exhausted all other democratic efforts to prevent state capture before time runs out.
“The justice system has been caught by the anti-state sect. We have justice with a regime that hits the poor. Because finances are running out and debts are rising. Because your economy is in the darkest days. Because oligarchs control the one-party parliament and commit serious constitutional crimes,” said the President.
Meta added that dictatorships may change masks but they remain as the enemies of freedom. He said that it is his responsibility as head of state to guarantee the Constitution, to protect it, and to guarantee a secular state where everyone can exercise their rights in peace, and with Western values.
He thanked those in attendance for making their voices heard in Albania and across the democratic world.
“Death to the coup d’etat, long live the rule of law, long live the Republic,” he said.
He then signed a decree against a new law that removes the need for Constitutional Court judges to be sworn in by the President, effectively giving control over candidates to the Socialist Party government.
Meta then stated that if his decree was not recognised, he would move to dissolve parliament.
The protest lasted 90 minutes and there were no incidents of unrest of violence reported.
This article is being continually updated