May 27. 2024. 9:48

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Albanian opposition protest in Tirana, another scheduled for Monday


Head of the Democratic Party and former Prime Minister and President Sali Berisha called for another protest on Monday after thousands of opposition supporters marched against the government on Saturday.

Protestors called on Prime Minister Edi Rama to resign, citing corruption, the high cost of living and issues with the way the nation’s economy is handled. Berisha, along with former Prime Minister and President Ilir Meta who runs the Freedom Party, led the crowds who gathered outside the main government buildings and gave speeches.

“Time has come for this revolution to bring out the corrupt money and turn them into higher salaries and pensions,” Berisha said on Saturday.

Smoke bombs were hurled at the prime minister’s office which was defended by lines of police officers. No serious incidents were reported.

The opposition says the government is behind the mass exodus of young people leaving the country, some 700,000 in a decade, due to corruption bills have been subsidised to protect them from the price increases ravaging Europe, while inflation remains some of the lowest in the region.

Protestors also accuse Rama of involvement in the Charles McGonigal scandal, a former FBI official who is accused in the US of hiding information relating to a 2017 trip to Albania where it is alleged he received some $225,000 from a local intelligence official.

Rama says he met McGonigal but denies any allegations of corruption and called the opposition’s accusations “a total abuse of freedom of speech, of the truth, of the public.”

On Sunday, Berisha renewed his call for supporters to take to the streets and invited them to gather at 5 pm in front of parliament at the same time a plenary session is due to take place.

“The revolution invites us,” he wrote on Facebook, while other PD officials said the protests would continue until the prime minister was overthrown.

But the PD has its own issues as it remains divided into two groups in 2021 after the expulsion of Berisha by at-the-time chairman Lulzim Basha after the former was sanctioned by the US State Department and then the UK.

A tense standoff followed, with both Berisha and Basha trying to take leadership of the party, which led to a violent protest at the party headquarters on 8 January 2022.

Basha ultimately resigned, and Berisha assumed the role of chairman, after which a court of first instance ruled that his takeover was legal, a decision that is now being appealed. Enkelejd Alibeaj heads one faction of the divided PD, while Berisha holds the chairmanship.

Local elections are set to take place in April, and they will be crucial as the opposition boycotted the 2019 vote leaving the ruling Socialist Party to govern almost every municipality for the last four years.

(Alice Taylor | Exit.al)