People march against gov't seeking new elections

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 16, 2019 20:05

People march against gov't seeking new elections

Story Highlights

  • A day after the protest, police notified it arrested 14 people and is searching for seven others, all to be punished for the acts of violence during the rally.

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TIRANA, March 16 - The united opposition protested on Saturday again against the Rama's government, which it accuses of winning the last elections through illegal ballot buying.

The protest's main demand is a caretaker government which can facilitate early elections.

The joint opposition protest in Tirana was accompanied by tensions in front of the parliament, when protesters tried to break the protective police line. Police used tear gas, while protesters were reported to throw strong items to law enforcement officials.

Later, in front of the parliament, police also used water to disperse protesters. Some protesters were injured, falling on the ground, along with police officers.

A day after the protest, police notified it arrested 14 people and is searching for seven others, all to be punished for the acts of violence during the rally.

For 11 other protesters, criminal proceeding has began in a free state.

The same decision was reached for the Secretary General of Democratic Party Gazmend Bardhi, as he was the person who requested permission to protest.

The detainees are charged with the criminal offenses "Organization and participation in illegal gatherings and manifestations", "Violence due to duty", "Violent opposition to a police officer", "Disruption of public order and peace" and "Keeping and using explosive materials."

Police explained that "procedural actions were conducted on the basis of an analysis of film footage, service reports, and other evidence collected by the investigative group. At the scene police have collected as material evidence about 130 capsules banned as life-threatening."

For its part, the DP accused the police on Sunday of escalating unprovoked violence towards the protesters with the sole purpose of scattering them, scaring them and keeping them away from the protest, but that it got its answer from the people.

Basha: We are not a destabilizing factor

Opposition leader Lulzim Basha denied criticism that the opposition's decision to resign its parliamentary mandates is destabilizing the country.

"Albania is destabilized by crime, we will put an end to this destabilization, Edi Rama should leave an hour early," said Basha.
The president of Albania, Ilir Meta, who cut his visit to Azerbaijan short, reacted on Saturday. He said that he is following the developments with concern, and has called for the avoidance of confrontation and violence.

In a later interview, Meta added that all political parties involved in the serious deadlock that's been created should take responsibility and not hide behind international representations in the country.

"I think that the political class should assume its responsibility and not hide behind any international as it has been so far and issues should be resolved in a transparent, principled manner, away from the bargains and misuses even of any internationals," Meta said.

Meanwhile, both the US Embassy to Albania and the EU Delegation warned ahead of the protest that violence during rallies is "illegal" and "intolerable," through two different statements.

The international community has openly criticized the opposition's decision to abandon  parliament by resigning their lawmakers' mandates collectively.

The opposition, however, has clearly announced that there will be no stepping back until the government's departure. Democratic leader Lulzim Basha said yesterday "the protest will be another chance for Albanians to unite and raise their voice."

Protesters symbolically surround institutions  

The protest was organized in the form of a march, where protesters "symbolically" surrounded the Prime Minister's Office, and then proceeded to parliament. The citizens' march and symbolic siege continued under the sound of a song "My country" and was headed by two opposition leaders, Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha and Socialist Movement for Integration leader Monika Kryemadhi.

The opposition has demanded early elections, and a caretaker government that will remove Edi Rama from office as prime minister. The protest takes place in absence of political parties' symbols. Meanwhile, Rama has stated that the government can not be touched, as it is a mandate given by the people. Protesters have repeatedly called "government of crime", "Rama go", and "we want Albania like the rest of Europe."

About 1800 police officers were committed to ensure the protest would run smoothly, staying around the perimeter of the Prime Minister's Office. This is the opposition's fifth protest, which kicked off on February 16 in front of the Prime Minister's Office and continued with several protests in front of the parliament. The united opposition accuses the governing Socialist majority of winning the elections through ballot buying. In protest, the opposition resigned its parliamentary mandates.

Reactions from Germany

On Thursday, German Minister of State Michael Roth told Deutsche Welle that they consider the opposition's parliament boycott is irresponsible.

"Because it's not just parliament or government boycotting, but also democracy. The parliament is the place to debate. We asked for intervention seeking moderation. But I'm afraid the situation is already very poisoned."

Meanwhile, rapporteur for Albania in the Foreign Commission Christian Schmidt thinks the government is also responsible for the crisis.

"This is not normal. The parliament lives by debate. It is up to the government to guarantee parliamentary cooperation," said the former German minister for DW. Schmidt has been Albania's rapporteur at the Bundestag's Foreign Commission for a year - one of the commissions that decide to open EU negotiations for the country.

Schmidt told DW that he plans to travel to Albania soon to be informed about the situation.

"I particularly want to see how much the opposition is involved in parliamentary procedures," he stressed.

Germany's decision to open negotiations will depend on the progress report of the European Union Commission that will be published on May 29th. But to give final approval to the EU Council on 19 June, Germany will have to get the Bundestag's approval.


Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 16, 2019 20:05