Thousands surround Albania parliament, demand new elections

March 5, 2019
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A protester flashes the victory sign in front of Albanian policemen guarding the parliament building as opposition supporters gather to take part in an anti-government rally , in Tirana , Albania, Tuesday, March 5, 2019. The opposition demanded the government step down, claiming it's corrupt and has links to organized crime. (AP Photo/ Hektor Pustina)

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Thousands of protesters supporting Albania’s opposition on Tuesday surrounded the parliament, demanding the government’s resignation and early elections and accusing the Cabinet of corruption and crime links.

Some threw flares and lit car tires, but the protest ended largely peacefully.

The parliament building in capital Tirana had been surrounded by hundreds of police officers and barbed wire.

Lawmakers of the center-right Democratic Party-led opposition have resigned from their posts, and the opposition has pledged to hold rallies whenever the parliament holds sessions.

“Only free and fair elections will open Europe’s door,” said Lulzim Basha of the Democratic Party.

Four new candidates from the opposition were sworn in Tuesday as new lawmakers.

Prime Minister Edi Rama called for dialogue with the opposition, but stated that they do not “negotiate the democracy, parliamentarism and the mandate received from the citizens’ majority.”

The opposition has not heeded calls from the European Union, the U.S. and international organizations to enter talks with its political rivals.

The governing Socialists hold 74 seats in the 140-seat parliament.

Recent rallies by the opposition’s supporters have turned violent, with police deploying tear gas.

Albania hopes to launch membership negotiations with the European Union in June.

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