bne IntelliNews – Albanian police use tear gas to break up protest at opposition Democrats headquarters
Police intervened to disperse an angry crowd of supporters of former Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha outside the headquarters of Albania’s main opposition party on January 8.
Berisha has sought to oust current party leader Lulzim Basha, who expelled him from the Democrats’ parliamentary caucus after Berisha was sanctioned by the United States, which accused him of being involved in “corruption important”.
Berisha supporters gathered outside the Democrats’ headquarters in Tirana around 10 a.m. on January 8. About an hour later, several hundred people forced their way through barriers outside the building, smashed windows and forced their way inside.
Footage taken outside the Democratic Party headquarters shows protesters repeatedly smashing a hammer against the doors. Others propped up ladders to scale the walls of the building.
MPs loyal to Basha inside the building called the police saying they feared for their lives. Local media reported seeing senior party officials on the roof of the party headquarters, including Jorida Tabaku, Grida Duma and Ervin Salianji, who both filmed themselves from inside the building and posted the videos on Facebook.
Police arrived at the scene and used tear gas to disperse the protesters. Many injuries were reported.
Berisha had warned in advance that his supporters planned to take control of the Democratic Party headquarters.
“YES PASSING / Democrats in protest, DP seat should go back to membership,” he wrote on Facebook at the start of the protest.
Party officials have yet to comment on today’s events, but MP Gazment Bardhi spoke to reporters the day before, accusing a minority within the party of seeking to “replace the legitimate institutions of the DP with acts of violence”.
“Sali Berisha, with the violence announced today [Janary 7]wants to turn the PD headquarters into a bunker where he, his family and the drug traffickers and murderers accompanying him on this desperate path against the Democrats will be sheltered,” Bardhi said according to a party statement.
“The United States is deeply concerned about rising tensions at Democratic Party headquarters and the use of force by protesters. We call on the protest organizers to reject violence and show calm. Those who incite violence or undermine the rule of law will be held accountable,” US Ambassador to Tirana Yuri Kim wrote on Twitter.
In December, Berisha hosted an unauthorized assembly of Democratic Party members at the Tirana stadium, where delegates voted overwhelmingly to oust Basha. The meeting took place after Berisha toured the country to drum up support from Democratic Party members.
However, Basha said he would not give in to pressure from Berisha to quit. At a meeting of the party’s national council on December 12, led by Basha, a declaration was adopted declaring that all actions taken at the previous day’s assembly were illegal.
Basha decided to exclude Berisha from the Democrats’ parliamentary caucus after the latter was designated by the US State Department as persona non grata due to his involvement in “significant corruption” in May.
“In his official capacity as Prime Minister of Albania in particular, Berisha has been involved in acts of corruption, such as embezzlement of public funds and interference in public processes, including the use of his power to profit and to enrich his political allies and family members. to the detriment of the Albanian public’s trust in its governmental institutions and officials,” the State Department’s May statement said.
Berisha dominated the political scene as prime minister and president from 1991 to 2013. He was Albania’s second post-communist president, serving in the post from 1992 to 1997, then becoming prime minister from 2005 to 2013. which makes him the oldest in Albania. democratically elected leader. He twice led the Democratic Party, which has been in opposition since stepping down in 2013 when the Democrats were ousted from power by the Socialists led by current Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.
Basha was mayor of Tirana from 2011 to 2015, having served as prime minister of public works, transport and telecommunications, then interior minister under Berisha.
After the loss of the April 2021 election – which Basha called an “election massacre” and claimed it was rigged – several high-ranking members of the Democratic Party called on him to step down. However, he successfully stood for re-election as party leader in the summer leadership election.