Supporters of the opposition party clash with the police in Tirana in Tirana, Albania. Florion Goga/Reuters
Albanian opposition parties rallied Saturday in Tirana, calling for the Socialist government to resign and for the country to hold an early parliamentary election. Some protesters tried to storm the parliament building, but police responded with tear gas and water cannon.
Thousands of opposition supporters from around the country showed up at Tirana's main Martyrs of the Nation boulevard holding anti-government posters and slogans, throwing flares, firecrackers and other projectiles at police.
Protesters broke through the police cordon at the main entrance of the government building, but did not try to open its doors. Police refrained from using tear gas at the government building but used it when demonstrators tried to storm at the parliament building.
Scores of protesters stayed at the building stairs, shouting slogans against the prime minister.
Demonstrators stayed more than two hours in front of the parliament continuously throwing hard objects and firecrackers. A car parked nearby was put on fire. Police called on them to remain calm and launched many tear gas bombs.
Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj denounced the attacks on police, saying that five policemen were injured. Some demonstrators and a few journalists were also affected by the tear gas.
The center-right Democratic Party-led opposition accuses Prime Minister Edi Rama's Socialist Party government of being corrupt and linked to organized crime, which the government denies.
“The attackers injure five policemen. Some demonstrators and a few journalists were also affected by the tear gas.
The leader of the Democrats, Lulzim Basha, called for a transitory Cabinet without Rama to hold fresh elections, a move, which he said, "goes beyond the urgent need for an immediate political rotation." He urged supporters to keep up daily protests.
The protest was over after more than four hours with Basha pledging to continue them.
Rama, who is on a trip abroad, deplored the attacks on police, posting on his Twitter page that police "have to cope with the physical excesses of a desperate politics."
In protests since mid-February, opposition supporters have repeatedly tried to enter the parliament or government buildings and police have responded with tear gas and water cannon.
Opposition lawmakers have relinquished their seats in parliament. Though some of the vacant seats have been taken by other opposition candidates, the governing Socialists have 74 seats in the 140-seat parliament.
In June, Albania expects an answer from the European Union whether full membership negotiations will be launched and also hold municipal elections.
Several police officers were injured on Saturday in Tirana during the opposition protest calling on Prime Minister Edi Rama to resign, an AFP journalist at the scene said.
The interior ministry said five police officers were injured, giving no details on the severity of their state.
The centre-right opposition Democratic Party said 15 protesters were affected by tear gas fired by police. They party had called the rally with another major opposition party, the centre-left Socialist Movement for Integration (MSI).
The rally, attended by thousands of people, had been tense from its start, in the late afternoon.
"I call you to resistance and insurgency to oust Rama," Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha told the crowd. Albania needed early elections and a transitional government, he added.
Protesters forced police cordons and threw stones and smoke bombs at police, threw ink on the facade of a government building and burned a vehicle parked in front of parliament.
"I call you to resistance and insurgency to oust Rama. Albania needed early elections and a transitional government.
They chanted slogans denouncing a "parliament of crime!" and calling on Rama to step down.
Rama condemned the violence, said the opposition parties were on the road to self-destruction.
The opposition has been demonstrating for two months calling for the resignation of Rama, who has held office since 2013.
Deputies from both the centre-right and centre-left opposition have quit the parliament, accusing the government of manipulating the results of a June 2017 legislative election.
Albanian political life is marked by verbal violence, with left- and right-wing parties exchanging insults and accusing each other of corruption or links to organised crime.
Tirana nevertheless hopes to open accession talks with the European Union later this year.
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