Albania opposition backs president’s anti-government protest


TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania’s main opposition Democratic Party on Sunday supported a call from the country’s president for an anti-government protest and also asked for a new election.

Earlier this week, President Ilir Meta called for a rally on March 2 against the left-wing government, which he accused of violating the country’s constitution and of links to organized crime.

Democratic leader Lulzim Basha on Sunday wrote on his Facebook page that the party supports Meta’s anti-government protest, adding that Albania is in a constitutional and economic crisis and “democracy is in danger.”

“There is one democratic solution: ending on time the electoral reform and immediately hold free and fair elections,” Basha said.

For months last year, the opposition held protests that often turned into violent clashes with police. It also boycotted parliament and a vote for local authorities, accusing the government of vote-rigging and of links to organized crime.

Both Meta and the opposition claim that a justice system reform approved three years ago to root out bribery and ensure that judges and prosecutors are independent from politics — part of the effort to embrace European Union standards — has failed.

The political turmoil comes as the Balkan nation of nearly 3 million people has been enacting reforms in hopes of getting a green light to launch EU membership talks.

Meta, former leader of the Socialist Movement for Integration Party, a small left-wing grouping now in the opposition, has always been a vocal opponent of the governing Socialist Party of Prime Minister Edi Rama.

The Socialists, which dominate parliament, have launched impeachment proceedings against Meta, the first in post-communist Albania, stemming from his attempt to cancel last year’s municipal elections.

The parliament is expected to produce a report in March that will likely ask for Meta’s ouster.