Albanian police use tear gas after protesters try to storm parliament

Thousands of protesters rallied in downtown Tirana on Saturday, calling on the ruling Socialist government to resign and hold early elections.

The protests, which saw participants and police clash in front of the parliament, were the latest demonstrations organized by the political opposition during the past two months.

Protesters showed up in the late afternoon on Tirana's main boulevard carrying posters, chanting "Parliament of crime!" and throwing flares, firecrackers and smoke bombs at police. They also torched a parked car.

Police responded with tear gas and water cannons after some protesters tried to storm the parliament building. Many demonstrators stayed on the steps of the building shouting slogans against the ruling prime minister.

The Interior Ministry said that five police officers had been injured in the confrontations. The center-right Democratic Party, which organized the rallies, said 15 protesters were affected by the tear gas.

Out with Rama

The Democratic Party and center-left opposition groups are calling on Prime Minister Edi Rama to step down, and many of their representatives have quit the parliament.

Rama, who has been in office since 2013, is accused of manipulating the results of a June 2017 parliamentary election. Opposition politicians have also accused his party of corruption and having links to organized crime.

Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha told the assembled protesters on Saturday to keep up the demonstrations against Rama. He also called for a transitional government to hold early elections.

Rama, who was traveling outside Albania on Saturday, criticized the protests, writing on Twitter that police "have to cope with the physical excesses of a desperate politics."

Albania is scheduled to hold municipal elections in June. It also expects an answer from the European Union by then on whether it will agree to open membership negotiations.

cmb/amp (AFP, AP)

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