Mass Anti-Governments Sweep Through Albania
Anti-government protests rocked Albania’s capital Tirana on February 17, leading to clashes with police. Tens of thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Edi Rama’s Socialist-led government and calling for early elections.
Anti-government protests erupted in Montenegro and Serbia on the same weekend, leading some activists to dub the protests the commencement of a Balkan Spring.
A group of protestors in Tirana broke through the police barriers and attempted to forcibly enter the government office of the prime minister, but police used tear gas to disperse them. The bulletproof glass windows of the gate guarding the building were left unbroken but gained a few scratches. The media has reported that injuries have been sustained by both protestors and policemen.
The opposition Democratic Party, a center-right coalition, catalyzed the protests yet unsuccessfully called for demonstrators to remain peaceful. The leader of the Democratic Party Lulzim Basha spent the days before the protests travelling the country to urging citizens to show up at the anti-Rama rallies.
After the protests, Democratic Party MP’s quit their positions in parliament, stating a unanimous decision to burn their parliamentary mandates in protest against Rama. Currently, the Democratic Party holds 43 of the chamber’s 140 seats (31 percent). The burning of mandates is a first of its kind in Albania’s political history.
However, the Democratic Party is not new to political power moves. In 2018, it boycotted parliament from July to December. Its return was marked by one of its members hurling an egg at Rama while he was speaking in the chamber.
The U.S. Embassy in Tirana issued a statement urging members not to abandon their mandates as it would “undermine the basic principles of democracy.”
Rama’s government hopes to begin European Union accession negotiations this year, but the opposition has demanded that they prioritize reducing organized crime and corruption.
Albanian President Ilir Meta called for reflection by both political parties, saying in a recent interview that “extreme acts do not serve democracy.” The U.S. and European Union both called for peaceful protests from the opposition.