Albania’s opposition takes to the streets

Albania’s opposition took to the streets on Tuesday, December 8, demanding the resignation of the government. The opposition accused the Socialist Party administration of Prime Minister, Edi Rama, of corruption. That is, an accusation that government and opposition in Albania frequently evoke.

The leading opposition Democratic Party (DP) and its leader, Luzlim Basha, rallied thousands of its supporters in the capital, Tirana, around Skandeberg Square in front of a government building complex. The result was a number of violent episodes and a clash with the police.

The demonstration was made to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the student demonstration that led to the fall of Communist regime in Albania and the rallies were branded “a popular uprising.” The opposition has also invited 1990 student veterans to underline the continuity between the former Communist Party and today’s Socialist Party, which is not unusual in Eastern Europe

According to Freedom House, Corruption is indeed pervasive in Albania, and the EU has repeatedly called for rigorous implementation of antigraft measures. Convictions of high-ranking officials and judges for corruption and abuse of power remain rare. Between July and September 2014, nearly 20 central bank employees, including the governor and inspector general, were arrested for alleged negligence that allowed the theft of some $6.6 million over four years.

Also during 2014, the PD repeatedly unearthed the criminal records of PS politicians and appointees in a bid to discredit the government. A PS lawmaker resigned in November 2014 over her son’s alleged criminal activity, and a deputy environment minister was fired a month later for allegedly failing to pay her power bills.

However, the EU praises anticorruption steps taken under the PS government, including the enactment of new civil service legislation, the finalization of a national anticorruption strategy, and the adoption of amendments to strengthen rules on asset disclosure and conflicts of interest for public officials. A newly appointed inspector for monitoring assets and conflicts of interest has pledged aggressive investigations and charges have been filed against high-level officials.

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