AP NEWS

Albania opposition protests against governing Socialists

February 26, 2019
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A protester holds an Albanian flag during an antigovernment rally in Tirana, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Albanian opposition supporters have surrounded the parliament building and are demanding that the government resign, claiming it's corrupt and has links to organized crime. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Supporters of Albania’s opposition threw flares and torched a car tire outside the country’s parliament Tuesday in an attempt to block ruling lawmakers entering the building amid calls for the government to quit.

The center-right Democratic Party-led opposition claims the leftist government of Prime Minister Edi Rama is corrupt and has links to organized crime. Opposition lawmakers want the government to make way for a caretaker administration and call early elections.

Opposition leaders held brief speeches calling on Rama to resign and pledging to hold continuous rallies.

Police used tear gas to disperse protesters, led by Democrats leader Lulzim Basha, who tried to break through a cordon.

Meanwhile the parliament session went ahead with Socialist lawmakers inside. Rama himself was not present.

Albania’s parliament holds sessions on Thursdays, but moved this week’s meeting to Tuesday in an attempt to avoid a planned demonstration.

The United States, European Union and other international institutions have called on the opposition leader to avoid violence and asked the government to enter talks with its political rivals.

“Violence is not the answer to the problems of Albania. We condemn again the political inciting of violence and call for restrain and responsibility,” said a statement from the Tirana office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Basha ended the protest after three hours pledging to reconvene whenever the parliament holds sessions.

The governing Socialists hold 74 seats in the 140-seat parliament. Opposition lawmakers have already quit as they push for early elections.

Albania, a NATO member since 2009, was granted EU candidate status in 2014 and hopes to launch membership negotiations in June.

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