Albania’s opposition has set off smoke bombs and started a small fire in the middle of parliament in a failed attempt to stop the chamber from voting on the 2024 budget.
MPs involved in the protest on Monday piled chairs in the centre of the chamber and red, green and purple smoke filled the air as security kept protesters back from the seat of the prime minister, Edi Rama.
One MP appeared to light a small fire that was passed forward in a container before flames briefly spread and were doused by surrounding politicians.
The de facto leader of the opposition Democratic party, Sali Berisha, a former prime minister who was also Albania’s first post-communist president from 1992 until 1997, has accused the government of trying to silence the opposition in parliament, where Rama’s Socialist party has a majority.
“The battle has no way back,” Berisha told reporters after the disturbance in the chamber where the budget passed a first vote in a session that lasted less than five minutes. “Our goal is to bring pluralism to parliament.”
Last month prosecutors charged Berisha and his son-in-law with corruption over a land deal involving the grounds of a sports club. They accused him of using his influence as prime minister from 2005 to 2009 to exert pressure “for the conclusion of the privatisation procedures in favour of others including his daughter’s husband”.
His son-in-law was arrested but as an MP Berisha has immunity from prosecution. He has been ordered not to leave the country. He denies the charges.
Berisha accuses Rama of orchestrating the prosecution against him. Rama denies the accusation.
“They [the opposition] brought the vocabulary and manners of the street into politics,” Rama said on X after the disturbance.
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