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News 18 Feb 17

Albanian Opposition Calls Citizens to Anti-Government Rallies

Albania’s main opposition party is rallying citizens to street demonstrations on Saturday afternoon, four months ahead of the general elections, to protest the present administration’s alleged failures.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
Lulzim Basha. Photo: Basha's Facebook page

Albania’s main opposition party the Democratic Party, PD, will gather citizens from across the country in the capital Tirana for anti-government protests on Saturday afternoon, four months ahead of parliamentary elections set for June 18.

“Four years of arrogance, abandonment, and chaos,” was the message carried by the party’s promotional video for the protest.

The demonstration, which will begin at noon, was first announced by PD chairman Lulzim Basha on February 1 – and Basha has used the time since then to tour the country drumming up potential participants.

On Thursday, at a meeting with citizens of the capital Tirana, Basha called on Albanians to use the rally to speak out about the problems they face as result of failures by Prime Minister Edi Rama’s administration.

He called on citizens to release their fears, saying that if they protest together they “will be stronger”.

“Everybody has his own problem – some from unemployment, another from the closure of his small business, some because of the failed health system, and another over the educational [system],” said Basha.

Another topic of Saturday’s protest is set to be the alleged links of government officials to organised crime.

Members of the PD claim that Rama’s administration is turning a blind eye to organised crime to boost their chances in the June election.

“I call Albanian citizens to stand up against crime. I also call on our international partners to seriously assess the large risk that Albania faces at a time when organized crime has captured the state,” Basha wrote in a Facebook post earlier this week.

In previous meetings, Basha claimed the opposition protests would look similar to the mass corruption rallies gripping Romania in recent weeks.

“Citizens here should do the same as those of Romania ... They have to stand up and not let a handful of politicians become rich while they are suffering from meager conditions,” he said in Kamza, a small town near Tirana, in early February.

Many analysts in Tirana believe Basha is testing his support in the party base four months ahead of the election.

Basha was nominated chairman of the PD in 2013, succeeding Sali Berisha, who held the position for 20 years but stepped down after the party’s general election defeat that year.

After nearly four years leading Albania’s main opposition group, many believe a strong performance in the June 18 elections will be key to his future in the party.

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