Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Guide to the Political Crisis and Opposition Protests in Albania, by Alice Elizabeth Taylor

Unless you have been avoiding social media and the news for the last week, you will be aware that on February 16th the Opposition held a large demonstration in Tirana. 

Since then the media has been alight with conflicting stories, confusing explanations and a lot of propaganda resulting in a situation where many, particularly in the expat or non-Albanian speaking community, do not know what is happening. This is the Exit.al guide to what was behind the protests, what has happened since, and what is likely to happen in the future.

Why did it happen?

There are many reasons, one of which is the fact that the current government is in crisis. The collusion of the government with criminal gangs in buying votes during the 2017 election, recent replacement of half of the cabinet following corruption scandals and student protest, continuing failures in the rule of law, no constitutional court, authoritarian media censorship laws, and increased criminality linked to the government are all reasons why the Opposition are both protesting and calling for an election.

Most importantly, in December it came to light that the Socialist Party had rigged the 2017 general elections in collaboration with organised criminal groups. Votes were bought, voters were threatened, and as a result, it is not possible to say with certainty that the last elections were fair. This information came to light through wiretaps that were investigated by journalist Klodiana Lala of BIRN before being published by the Voice of America.

These are all reasons why an election is necessary.

What happened on the 16th of February?

On the 16th of February, tens of thousands of protestors assembled in the main boulevard of Tirana to protest against Edi Rama. The epicentre of the protest was outside of the Office of the Prime Minister, next to the Rogner Hotel.

The area had been surrounded by lines of police and scaffolding had been erected to protect two artworks installed by Prime Minister Edi Rama. A couple of hours after the protest started, the lines of police allowed protestors to ascend the steps of the office- no attempt was made to stop them. A handful of individuals, out of the maybe 50,000 present, then began to attack the scaffolding and doors, causing minor damage to the glass and frame. 

MORE: https://exit.al/en/2019/02/22/the-guide-to-the-opposition-protests/