Albanian anti-government protest turns violent

Thousands of Albanian opposition supporters clashed with police in the country’s capital Tirana on February 16 at an anti-government rally protesting against what they claim is a corrupt and inefficient government. The protesters demanded that the cabinet of Prime Minister Edi Rama should be replaced with a technocratic government until early elections can be organised.

At one stage, protesters throwing flares and other objects broke through police ranks in an attempt to enter the building which houses Mr Rama’s office. A sculpture by German artist Carsten Holler which stands next to the entrance of building was damaged. Eventually, police were forced to use tear gas to disperse the protesters.

The demonstration was organised by the opposition Democratic Party, whose leader, Lulzim Basha, told the Associated Press before the rally that: “(We need) to restore democracy through a parliament that is elected by the will of people and not the money or the threats of criminals.”

A new demonstration has been called for February 21. The European Union has called on all sides “to do their utmost to avoid further violence and unrest.”

Mr Rama has come under increasing pressure in recent months, primarily due to accusations of corruption tied to a plan to build a ring-road around the Albanian capital. Prosecutors are currently investigating how a company, whose manager is now a fugitive, used false documents to secure 18 million euros of state funds to build a section of the ring road. Mr Rama sacked Transport Minister Damian Gjiknuri in December, along with six other members of his cabinet, in response to earlier protests.

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