Albania opposition protests alleged vote fraud
November 20, 2009
TIRANA - Thousands of supporters of Albania's opposition protested Friday outside the main government building to demand a probe into allegations of vote rigging. The protest follows the narrow election victory of Prime Minister Sali Berisha's conservatives June 28.
The Socialist opposition has boycotted the parliament since the election and called for a re-count in several areas. The government says a re-count would be illegal. The conservatives and their allies control 75 of parliament's 140 seats; the Socialists and an ally control 65.
The rally, the last in a series of weekly protests since early October, will continue until Sunday, with Socialist lawmakers and supporters planning to pass the night in tents they will pitch around Berisha's office. A dozen opposition politicians spoke to thousands of protesters, who held up banners demanding a recount.
Socialist leader Edi Rama vowed to maintain the opposition boycott of parliament until the 'transparency of the June 28 vote" is secured. "If the ballot boxes are kept closed by force, we will forcefully demand that the government holds early elections," Rama said. "The free world has found an answer for regimes that refuse to listen — popular protest."
Friday's rally clogged traffic in the capital. International monitors said the June elections failed to fully meet international standards. The United States embassy, in a statement, called upon "all Albanians, both those participating in protests and those responsible for maintaining order, to exercise their rights and responsibilities calmly and respectfully."
Rama said Socialist lawmakers and supporters, including some 2,000 registered party volunteers, would continue the protest around the government building.
"This protest has just started," Rama said.