Albanian opposition leads anti-government protest
TIRANA, Albania — Thousands of Albanian political opposition supporters took part in an anti-government protest on Saturday, calling for the prime minister’s resignation over alleged corruption and mismanagement of the small Balkan nation’s economy.
Sali Berisha, former president and prime minister of Albania who leads the center-right Democratic Party, and former president Ilir Meta, who leads the left-wing Freedom Party, were among the protesters who gathered outside the main building of the government with banners. and shouted at Prime Minister Edi Rama of the ruling center-left Socialist Party to resign.
“The time has come for this revolution to take out the corrupt money and turn it into higher wages and pensions,” Berisha said.
Protesters threw smoke bombs at the main entrance of the government building, where hundreds of police formed a line to protect the building.
Rama’s critics have accused him of corruption and hold him responsible for the exodus of young Albanians to seek jobs in Western European countries. Rama says his cabinet has kept inflation low compared to elsewhere in Europe and subsidized electricity for families and small businesses.
The opposition also accuses Rama of bribing Charles McGonigal, a former senior FBI counterintelligence official, who is accused in the US of hiding key details from the FBI of a 2017 trip he took. made in Albania with a former Albanian intelligence official who is alleged to have given him at least $225,000.
McGonigal met with the Albanian prime minister and urged caution in awarding licenses to drill oilfields in the country to Russian front companies.
Rama acknowledged meeting McGonigal but denied allegations that he gave her money or preferential treatment.
Not all opposition Democrats were present at the protest as Berisha’s party was plagued with infighting after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in 2021 banned Berisha and his close relatives from entered the United States for “corrupt acts that undermined democracy” during his 2005-2013 term as prime minister.
Britain did the same last year.
Berisha called for another protest in parliament on Monday.