OSCE calls on Albanian opposition to hold peaceful demo

AP News
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Posted: May 12, 2017 9:10 AM

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has called on the Albanian opposition to refrain from violence in an anti-government protest.

Friday's Twitter post from the OSCE's Presence in Albania operation said: "The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is one of the foundations of democracy." It added: "No space in 2017 Albania for violence."

The opposition Democrats have planned a national protest Saturday. It has boycotted parliament since February and demanded that Prime Minister Edi Rama resign before the June 18 parliamentary election because of fears that his Cabinet will manipulate the vote.

Last week Rama's Socialist Party withdrew its candidate and a mayoral vote was canceled in a western town because of fears of a confrontation with opposition supporters who were planning a protest there on the same day.

Attempts by EU and U.S. representatives to promote dialogue among political parties have failed. On Thursday, EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn warned that Albanian leaders would be held accountable for preventing their people's "legitimate aspirations ... for a better future."

"The democratic process must continue, even if some decide to stay behind," Hahn said.

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The Democrats, who have pitched a tent in front of Rama's office, have said Saturday's protest will be peaceful.

"Tomorrow we launch the path for the new republic and topple the old republic," said Lulzim Basha, the Democrats' leader.

Albania expects to launch full membership negotiations with the European Union if it holds free and fair parliamentary election in June 18 and launches a justice reform program which has been blocked because of the opposition.