April 14. 2024. 7:26

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Albania has third anti-government protest this week, PM called to resign

The opposition and supporters held the third anti-government protest in a week outside of parliament in Tirana on Thursday, calling for the prime minister to resign and attempting to disrupt the parliamentary session.

Hundreds of people, including a man in traditional dress riding a horse, congregated outside the parliament. Some protestors threw smoke bombs at the police guarding the building. While the turnout was smaller than in the previous two protests, the protestors’ demands remained the same.

“I came from Kurbini on a horse, I didn’t have money to come by car because the ticket was 3000-4000 lek and I didn’t have it. I got ready at 4 in the morning, and I got on my horse, I came straight here,” said the 60-year-old man.

Inside parliament, opposition MPs blew whistles and traded barbs with MPs from the ruling Socialist Party. One opposition MP, Edmond Spaho, was expelled from the session.

The protests are being organised by the centre-right Democratic Party of former president and prime minister Sali Berisha and the left-wing Freedom Party of former president Ilir Meta.

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.”

The government also argues that inflation is lower than elsewhere in Europe, and it has subsidised energy bills for households and small businesses.

Organisers called a national protest on 3 March, the same day the appeals court will rule on who has the right to lead the centre-right Democratic Party.

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)