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February 19, 2017

Protesters seek early elections in Albania

World

February 19, 2017

TIRANA: Thousands of protesters gathered in Albania’s capital on Saturday to demand the resignation of Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama, saying he had deepened "poverty and corruption".

"Rama’s government must go, the time has come to overthrow it!" Lulzim Basha, an opposition leader with the centre-right Democratic Party, told the crowd at the main government offices in Tirana.

Protesters threw smoke bombs and carried effigies of Rama and his health and interior ministers, with signs such as "Get lost Rama" and "We want early elections".

"He has plunged the country into poverty and corruption, has led it into an impasse, forcing many Albanians to leave their country," Basha said.

Parliamentary elections are set for June 18.

The protest was largely peaceful, but a group erected a huge tent that they said could shelter 1,000 people who would camp there until their demand was met.

Albania, a candidate for EU membership, last year adopted a key judicial reform sought by Brussels to fight corruption and organised crime.

It hopes to begin talks for joining the bloc toward the end of 2017.

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