Albania's opposition protests demanding snap elections

Albania's main opposition leader last Tuesday urged Prime Minister Edi Rama to call a snap election over allegations of corruption and vote fraud, as anti-government protesters rallied outside parliament, news wires reported. Thousands of protesters supporting Albania's opposition have surrounded the parliament, burned portraits of Rama and threw firecrackers at the building.

But the demonstration - the fourth against his administration since mid-February and timed to coincide with parliamentary sessions - was calmer than in previous weeks. The parliament building in Tirana was surrounded by hundreds of police officers and barbed wire in order to stop protesters from storming the building.

The opposition Democratic Party and its allies gave up their parliamentary seats 12 days ago, saying investigations by prosecutors into allegations of vote fraud vindicated claims that Rama's Socialists fixed the 2017 national election. Rama, who has rejected the allegations, told lawmakers last Tuesday that democracy was not up for “negotiation” and urged the opposition to test its strength at the ballot box in local elections in June.

Democratic Party head Lulzim Basha called parliament a hotbed of “crime and corruption”. He told the crowd, which Reuters estimated as numbering more than 5,000, that only “free and fair elections” would pave the way for Albania's entry to the EU. The Balkan country aims to start accession talks with the EU this year, but the tense political climate could delay that process.

The EU and its Member States last month called on all sides to “do their utmost to avoid violence and further unrest”. So far the opposition has not heeded calls from the European Union, the US and international organisations to enter talks with its political rivals, and another protest is scheduled to the days to come.

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