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News 01 Feb 18

Albanian Police Arrest Deputy Mayor Over Dibra Violence

Police have arrested the deputy mayor of Dibra in the north of Albania after members of his Justice, Integration and Unity Party attacked Socialist Party officials - in a sign that the two parties' former alliance has collapsed.

Gjergj Erebara
Electoral posters in Dibra. Photo: BIRN.

Four officials of the Municipality of Dibra in northern Albania were sent to hospital on Wednesday after suffering injuries at the hand of officials from their junior political allies in the PDIU, police reported.

Dibra's Socialist Mayor Muharrem Rama wrote on Facebook that "about 20-30 persons, some of whom were employees of the municipality, militants of the PDIU, led by Deputy Mayor Olti Cani", had assaulted his staff while seeking to fulfill their "clan interests". Deputy Mayor Cani, 34, was arrested later by the police.

The Socialist Party and its allies from the Justice, Integration and Unity Party, PDIU, narrowly won control of the northern municipality in 2015.

It was the first time the left had won in this region since the fall of the communist regime.

However, the winner, Shukri Xhelili, was later arrested and fired in 2016 as mayor, after being caught on camera offering a municipal employee promotion and a higher salary in return for sexual favours.

Despite that scandal, the Socialist Party regained the municipality in a re-election held in September 2016 and even increased its vote, thanks to the support of the PDIU.

The PDIU represents members of the so-called Cham community – ethnic Albanians expelled from Greece in two waves, first in the 1930s and then after the Second World War.

They settled mainly in southern and central Albania. However, they emerged with an unusually large number of voters in the Dibra region in the north in the 2016 and 2017 elections.

The opposition Democratic Party accused both them and the Socialists of vote-buying tactics, offering jobs for votes and using outright violence to turn the political tide in a traditionally right-wing region.

Despite their electoral alliance, the two parties in Dibra appear now to have fallen out.

Apparently revolted by events on Wednesday, Mayor Rama called the DPUI "scum" and people with no values.

"This is the way that this party knows how to resolve its problems," he wrote.

"It doesn't have any assets or 'values', except violence, scoundrels, corrupt and incriminated persons who want only to despoil and rob. It is a calamity that politics have fallen into [the hands of] such scum."

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