Albania opposition hold anti-government rally ahead of polls

The opposition protest in Tirana | evin Jasini

Albania’s opposition on Saturday started a national protest demanding a caretaker cabinet to take the country to free and fair parliamentary election in June 18.

Several thousand supporters stretched along a 300-meter (yards) segment of the capital, Tirana’s main Martyrs of the Nation boulevard up to Prime Minister Edi Rama’s office, guarded by hundreds of policemen. Many streets were temporarily blocked.

Lulzim Basha, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, was seen accompanied by his wife and two daughters.

U.S. and other Western embassies have advised their citizens in Albania to stay away from the rally.

The opposition has boycotted parliament since February, and has pitched a tent in front of Rama’s office. They claim Rama’s Cabinet will manipulate the vote.

Opposition political parties have not registered for the June 18 election but also have threatened they will not be held without them.

Last week Rama’s Socialist Party withdrew its candidate and a mayoral vote was canceled in a western town because of fears of a confrontation with opposition supporters who were planning a protest there on the same day.

Attempts by EU and U.S. representatives to promote dialogue among political parties have failed. On Thursday, EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn warned though that “the democratic process must continue, even if some decide to stay behind.”

Before the opposition march, gay rights organizations in Albania held their annual pride event without any disturbances. They urged the government to pass draft legislation on same-sex marriage and recognition of trans-gender persons.

Unlike the previous year no Western diplomats were seen joining the riders.