Albanian President slams US ambassador in TV talk show
The Albanian president accused the American ambassador of intervening in the internal affairs of the small European country by supporting his prime minister in an upcoming parliamentary election.
President Ilir Meta spoke harshly about Ambassador Yuri Kim on a Friday night TV show and called on the US diplomat “to stop supporting (Prime Minister Edi) Rama, who is violating the elections.”
While the show was airing on Syri Televizion, Kim texted Meta and also tweeted about Sunday’s election, responding to a warning given by Meta this week that Albanians would be using pitchforks and other tools. if the prime minister tries to manipulate the vote or the results.
“It is unacceptable for anyone to threaten that citizens take ‘pitchforks’ on April 25 or if they do not like the outcome of the elections,” the ambassador wrote. “These threats deserve to be condemned. Those who incite violence will be held accountable for the results of their words and actions. Stop.”
Albania’s two biggest political parties are bitter electoral rivals. Clashes between supporters of the Rama government and the opposition culminated on Wednesday with the death of one of the main supporters of the ruling Socialist Party. Police said the victim was shot dead, allegedly by a member of the opposition Democratic Party, during an argument involving members of the opposing camps.
Meta denounced Rama for allegedly leading a “kleptocratic regime” which concentrated all legislative, administrative and judicial powers within the prime minister. He also accused Rama of screwing up Albania’s pandemic response and delaying the country’s integration into the European Union.
The president occupies the post without party affiliation. Meta previously led the Left Socialist Movement for Integration, which is now led by his wife.
On Friday night’s talk show, Meta called Rama a “gangster” and “psychic patient.” He also became visibly agitated after receiving Kim’s text and made extreme statements about the US ambassador. At one point, the president hinted that Kim might be part of an international lobbying campaign against him led by Serbia.
“There are corrupt circles. There is a lobbying paid by Serbia, there (in the United States) and in other countries, which uses the American representatives against Ilir Meta, ”he said.
Meta alleged that Kim told him on a phone call, “We know some things about you.”
“I said (in Washington) if you have a problem with me let me know because I know you might even kill me,” he said. Meta added that he would go to a nearby mountain and then “you could throw a missile at me, so I don’t hurt other people.”
After meeting Lulzim Basha of the main center-right Democratic opposition party, the American ambassador reiterated on Saturday that Washington “does not support any party or candidate”.
“But we absolutely support the right of all citizens to vote freely and in peace,” Kim tweeted.
The election campaign was not allowed in Albania on Saturday. Meta sent a letter to opposition parties across the country asking them not to allow “any effort to spoil the electoral process.” He also called on prosecutors, police and election commissioners to be impartial.