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Anti-govt protest in Albania turns violent as opposition supporters clash with police

Anti-govt protest in Albania turns violent as opposition supporters clash with police Opposition protest in Tirana, Albania, Author: LSA/All Rights Reserved

TIRANA (Albania), May 13 (SeeNews) – An anti-government protest rally called by Albania’s opposition supporters to demand the resignation of Socialist prime minister Edi Rama in order to trigger early elections turned violent on Saturday.

A footage run by local TV station Top Channel showed police using tear gas to disperse the protesters after a group of them broke through the police line in front of the government building, hurling petrol bombs, flares and firecrackers against police offices and public buildings.

Later, the protesters moved close to the parliament building where a group of them kept hurling petrol bombs and firecrackers, to which police responded with tear gas and water cannons. After four hours, the opposition supporters moved to the Tirana police directorate to protest against the arrest of one of organizers of the rally.

Sixteen police officers and several protesters were injured in the clashes while 50 persons were detained for acts of violence, police said in a statement on Sunday.

The opposition, whose lawmakers gave up their seats in parliament in February, has refused dialogue with Rama, calling instead for a transitional government without Rama that would be tasked with preparing early elections.

The opposition has organized several protests since the middle of February, accusing the government of corruption and electoral fraud and demanding snap elections.

The opposition decided Sunday to continue protests against the arrests and called another rally for Monday evening.

Representatives of international institutions in Albania have warned the opposition against using violence and called on them to enter dialogue with the government.

The US embassy in Tirana said in a statement that the “opposition’s stated objective to make Albania’s democracy stronger runs counter to the violence being perpetrated by protesters”.

“Violence is inherently undemocratic, and it must stop. Protest leaders have a responsibility to encourage calm. We call on all parties to show restraint,” the US embassy said.

The delegation of the EU also called on protesters and their political leaders to show responsibility and restraint.

“Peaceful protest is a core value of a modern European democracy. Violence cannot be tolerated in any circumstance. Differing political points of view need to be handled through debate and dialogue,” the EU delegation said.

The OSCE Presence in Albania said the organizers of Saturday’s protest action “must bear the political responsibility for the criminal violence by some of their followers”.

“Our thoughts are with the families of the injured. The OSCE will continue to encourage effective opposition and dialogue in Albania. But it condemns totally those who try to use violence as a political short-cut; they will fail,” the OSCE Presence noted in a statement. “We reiterate our firm stand that violence is not the answer. Also, heavy response to violence will not help.”

Albania was granted EU candidate status in 2014 and hopes to launch membership negotiations later this year.