Protests demanding Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama’s resignation commence in Tirana today.
The demonstrations come ahead of June 30’s municipal elections. Previous protests have turned violent; police have used tear gas and water cannons to deter demonstrators from throwing smoke bombs and flares.
The opposition, which refuses to engage with Rama, is boycotting the municipal elections. In February, opposition leaders walked out of parliament, claiming the 2017 national elections were unfair. Mr Rama is calling the opposition’s attempt to force his resignation as undemocratic.
As this unfolds, both sides are hopeful that the EU will accept Albania’s request to begin membership negotiations this month. While the EU has cited Albania’s recent judicial reforms as a positive development, it has also condemned the recent violence. The EU considers Mr Rama’s government democratic—a key criterion for EU membership—and has called for the opposition to return to parliament.
As the EU recognises Albania as a legitimate democratic government, expect negotiations to go ahead. Given the opposition’s strong stance against engaging with Rama, do not expect an immediate cooling of tensions. If violence increases, expect Albania’s negotiations with the EU to stall.
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Saira is an analyst in the Current Developments team, where she focuses her research on the Middle East and North Africa region.