Last weekend the capital of Albania, Tirana, saw the most aggressive protests in recent months. According to media reports, 15 police officers were injured in the riots.

The rally, which was attended by thousands of people, was headed by opposition Democratic Party (DP) leader Lulzim Basha, former President and Prime Minister of Albania Sali Berisha, and leader of Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) Monika Kryemadhi.

“Today is the decisive day…for freedom or death! We want a Eropean Albania”, – said Lulzim Bash, addressing the current Prime Minister Edi Rama.

The main demand of the protesters – the resignation of “perpetrator Rama”. Mr Basha emphasized that without them elections in Albania won’t take place “neither in June nor next year”.

On Saturday, May 11, protesters gathered in front of the Parliament building and tried to break through a law enforcement cordon, using smoke grenades. Afterwards, the crowd went to the police building, where they demanded to release Sahit Dollapi, one of the organizers of previous protest actions.

The police surrounded the government building with barbed wire in advance to prevent the crowd from getting inside the building. The protest began on the Central Boulevard of the city, from there the opposition members moved to the government building, and then around 9 PM went to the Parliament.

Protesters threw Molotov cocktails at the government and Parliament buildings. Police put out the flames and dispersed the protesters with tear gas.

Albanian President Ilir Meta urged the protesters to avoid acts of violence and confrontation. Edi Rama called the actions of the opposition “blind politics”. In turn, Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj noted that the participants only “destroy Albania”.

“Democracy is not built with Molotovs, which aim at destroying Albania. But that is impossible! I urge citizens to refrain from attacks on institutions. No one has the right to re-ignite Albania,” said Mr Lleshaj, addressing the protesting crowd. 

After Saturday events the police detained more than 50 people. This protest became the fourth since the beginning of 2019. Leader of the DP Lulzim Basha highlighted that the protests will continue until Mr Rama’s resignation. Pending this, the upcoming elections will be boycotted.

So far, criminal cases against 33 people were initiated following the protest actions. The opposition announced a new rally on Monday, May 13.

The US and the EU support the incumbent government in this confrontation and condemn the violence by the opposition, which harms Albania’s integration into the EU. Despite the fact that Western leaders are satisfied with the policy conducted by the current leadership of the country, it seems that its legitimacy is called into question and the country is facing a political crisis, which resolution almost entirely depends on the position of the EU and the US.