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Albanians rally by the thousands against ruling Socialist government

Thousands of supporters of Albania’s opposition held an anti-government protest Tuesday accusing the Cabinet of corruption.

Protesters threw stones and flares at police officers. Some pulled down an iron fence around the main government building in the capital, Tirana. The protest, which ended peacefully, also marked 33 years since the toppling of the main statue of the country’s late communist dictator, Enver Hoxha.

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Since October, opposition lawmakers have regularly disrupted parliament sessions to protest the ruling left-wing Socialists’ refusal to create parliamentary commissions to investigate alleged cases of corruption involving Prime Minister Edi Rama and other top officials.

Albania protest

An anti-government protest is photographed in Tirana, Albania, on Feb. 20, 2024. (AP Photo / Armando Babani)

Tuesday’s protest also showed support for former prime minister and current opposition leader Sali Berisha, who is under house arrest while being investigated for allegedly abusing his post to help his son-in-law privatize public land to construct apartment buildings.

Speaking from his apartment and broadcast live on screens at the rally, Berisha accused Rama of corruption and of politically attacking his family. He pledged to re-open the “integration doors to the European Union, which Edi Rama’s regime has closed.”

Not all opposition groups joined the protest. Supporters of a wing of the divided Democratic Party that didn’t take part accused Berisha of holding the protest for personal gain and as a way to increase the number of his supporters.

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Support for him significantly diminished after the United States in 2021 and the United Kingdom in 2022 barred him and close family members from entering because of alleged involvement in corruption.

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