Albanian opposition holds second anti-government protest in Tirana
Albanian opposition party supporters held a protest outside of parliament on Monday, the second protest since Saturday, disrupting a parliamentary session as they called for the prime minister to resign over allegations of corruption and mismanagement of the economic crisis.
The protest was organised by the former prime minister, president, and current chairman of the centre-right Democratic Party and the former prime minister, president and leader of the left-wing Freedom Party, Ilir Meta.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the parliament, and smoke bombs and fireworks were thrown. A significant police presence hampered efforts, and no arrests or incidents were reported.
So I tell you, better follow the rules and laws and respect the rights of the opposition. There are 750,000 voters whose rights are suppressed in the parliament. We will never tolerate this. Long live the revolution, long live the resistance, long live you”, Berisha told the crowd, referencing the number of Albanians reported to have left the country in the last decade.
Entering parliament, where a session was taking place, Berisha and others took to the podium and blew whistles to drown out others trying to speak. The parliamentary speaker closed the session without addressing any of the issues on the agenda.
“The people will speak”, Berisha said as he left, saying protests would continue.
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 that 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 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.
According to AP, McGonigal met with Rama to discuss and warn against giving oil drilling licenses to Russian front companies.
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.”
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.
In 2019, before the last local elections, similar opposition-led protests took place, resulting in attempts to enter the prime minister’s office and widespread arrests and the use of tear gas.
(Alice Taylor | Exit.al)