Several thousand demonstrators took to the streets of Tirana on Saturday to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Edi Rama, clashing with security forces at several points across the city.
A group of protesters, including some with masked faces, hurled Molotov cocktails, firecrackers, and other objects at the entrance of the main government building in the Albanian capital. Police fired tear gas when a number of protesters broke through the cordon, with security forces also using tear gas to clear the area.
Protester lifts up police barrier in Tirana (Reuters/Stringer)
Protesters in Tirana have been rallying against the government since mid-February
Opposition leaders believe Rama and his aides were responsible for alleged electoral fraud in 2017, and also accuse the government of corruption. They urge Rama’s resignation and the creation of a transitional Cabinet.
“We are here with a mission, to liberate Albania from crime and corruption, to make Albania like the rest of Europe,” said the leader of opposition Democratic Party Lulzim Basha.
Police representatives urged Basha to remove rioters and petrol bomb attackers from the ranks of protesters.
Police used tear gas to clear the area before protesters headed to the parliament building
US, EU side with Rama
This is the fourth nationwide protest since the rallies started in mid-February, and the rallies are expected to continue. The center-left Rama has so far rejected calls to resign and denied any wrongdoing.
The country is heading for a local election next month, but main opposition parties have said they would boycott the polls.
Rama’s government is considered pro-EU. Both the EU officials and the US have urged the opposition to take part in the election and end their ongoing boycott of parliament. They also said the current government was legitimate.
On Saturday, the US embassy condemned the violence at the protest and said it “must stop.”
“The opposition’s stated objective to make Albania’s democracy stronger runs counter to the violence currently being perpetrated by protesters,” the embassy said in a statement. “Protest leaders have a responsibility to encourage calm.”