Albanian protesters storm opposition party headquarters

Albanian opposition supporters have clashed with each other and tried to storm their party headquarters following an internal fight for the party leadership.

A group of protesters led by Albania’s former opposition party leader Sali Berisha used iron bars and hammers to break open the main doors of the building, as police fired teargas and water cannons at them.
Albanian police have intervened to move away protesters who broke into the headquarters of the country’s main opposition party in an internal squabble over the party’s leadership.

Police used a water cannon truck and tear gas, and scores of officers pushed away hundreds of protesters who had stormed the ground floor of the centre-right Democratic Party’s headquarters on Saturday.

They detained and removed some protesters, and at least one injured person was seen.

A group led by former party leader Sali Berisha used iron bars and hammers to break open the main doors of the building.

Berisha is trying to remove the Democrats’ leader, Lulzim Basha, whom he accuses of being a “hostage” of Prime Minister Edi Rama of the left-wing Socialist Party.

“Today the Democrats and Albania’s democrats will turn the bunker of hostage (Lulzim) Basha into their house of freedom,” Berisha said, pledging to continue the protest.
arty staff used tear gas to try to prevent them breaking in before police intervened.

The party in a statement said that “today’s acts of violence against the Democratic Party mark Sali Berisha’s final isolation and a shameful move out of the political scene.”

Rising tensions

US Ambassador in Tirana Yuri Kim expressed concern at the “rising tensions” at the Democrats’ building and called on protesters “to reject violence and exercise calm.”

“Those inciting violence or undermining the rule of law will be held accountable,” she posted on Twitter.

Basha fired Berisha from the parliamentary group in September 2020, following an intervention in May by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Blinken said in a statement that during Berisha’s 2005-2013 tenure as prime minister, the politician “was involved in corrupt acts … using his power for his own benefit and to enrich his political allies and his family members.”

Blinken said Berisha interfered in “independent investigations, anticorruption efforts, and accountability measures” and “undermined democracy in Albania.”

Last month US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Gabriel Escobar said there would be “consequences” if the Democratic Party chose someone to be leader who had been designated persona non grata by Washington.

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