Opposition calls for nationwide protests of Albanian govt
TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania's center-right opposition parties kept demonstrations calling for the resignation of the left-wing government going Sunday after some protesters and police clashed in the capital of Tirana the night before.
Leaders of the country's Democratic Party-led opposition decided to reconvene to object to the arrest of a senior party official during Saturday's anti-government protest. They are trying to organize nationwide rallies for Monday.
"Barbarous violence against hundreds of protesters ... will get tomorrow the proportional response from the united and determined people," Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha told hundreds of supporters in front of the Tirana city police department.
The opposition accuses the Cabinet of Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama of being corrupt and linked to organized crime, which the government denies. Rama denounced the behavior of protesters who showered police officers and the national government building with Molotov cocktails, firecrackers and hard objects on Saturday and said "Albania is damaged."
Police responded with tear gas and water cannons. Both protesters and officers were injured. Tirana police said Sunday 50 people were arrested for acts against police officers and public buildings, while 31 others were detained and later released,.
Rama backed the actions of police during Saturday clashes except for "two-three seconds of an incident when two police officers used the baton." At a news conference Sunday, the prime minister brought up a 2011 rally where National Guard officers deployed by the Democratic Party-led government shot and killed four supporters of Ramas' Socialist Party, which was in opposition at the time.
"We are not them," he said. The U.S. Embassy in Albania and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe denounced the violence seen Saturday. Albania expects to hear in June whether the European Union will grant its request to launch full membership negotiations.
The European Union office in Tirana appealed for calm following the unrest. It called "on protesters and their political leaders to show responsibility and restraint. Differing political points of view need to be handled through debate and dialogue."
The opposition has held national protests since mid-February and smaller ones every week across the country, accusing government officials of corruption and of stealing votes in the parliamentary election two years ago.
Opposition lawmakers relinquished their seats in parliament in protest, though many vacancies ultimately were killed by other opposition candidates. The governing Socialists have 74 seats in the 140-seat parliament.
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