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News 24 Apr 17

Albania Opposition Vow to Radicalize Protests

Albania's opposition parties on Monday plan to block all national roads for one hour, as they up their confrontation with the government of Edi Rama.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
Opposition leader, Lulzim Basha holding a speech in the tent. Photo: LSA/Malton Dibra

Albanian opposition parties plan to radicalize their protests against the government of Edi Rama starting from Monday, when they intend to block all national roads for an hour.

Since February 18, the opposition parties have erected a tent in front of Rama's office while calling on him to resign and open the way for a technical government to conduct what they call free and fair elections.

Opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha on Thursday warned that from now on, the protests would not be limited to Tirana but will spread all over Albania.

On Monday, all national roads in the country will be blocked by opposition activists from 11am to noon, according to the plan.

"Many Albanian citizens are going to join us in this action. This is a joint decision of the opposition parties," Basha said.

The spokesperson of his Democratic Party, Ina Zhupa told BIRN that all democratic forms of protests are going to be used to achieve the aim of free and fair elections.

The opposition is preparing a bigger protest on May 7 in Kavaja, where locals are to vote for a new mayor after the last one, elected in 2015, was removed for having concealed his troubled past with the law. "The protest of Kavaja is going to be a national one," Zhupa predicted.

Opposition parties have refused to participate in the Kavaja municipal election. They have also refused to participate in the general elections of June 18, arguing that the country cannot hold free and fair elections with Rama as Prime Minister.

The planned escalation of the protests will likely hinder any chances of finding a compromise between the parties on securing an inclusive process for the election of a new President and over the general election.

The ruling Socialist Party under Rama and the Socialist Movement for Integration, LSI, led by Ilir Meta, have tried to negotiate with the opposition to become part of these processes, but without success.

On Tuesday, David McAllister, the chairman of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs, is due to meet all the party leaders in an attempt to mediate the crisis.

The crisis is viewed with concern in Brussels because it is also impeding implementation of important judicial reforms whose first phase includes vetting around 800 judges and prosecutors.

On April 12, the EU foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, and the Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, called on all parties to return to parliament in order to oversee the reform.

“We expect members of parliament to show responsibility ... and stand by the people of Albania, who continue to demand that the vetting is launched and the judiciary eventually reformed as a crucial step for the country to join the European Union,” the statement read.

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