TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Thousands of Albanian opposition supporters on Saturday clashed with police in an anti-government rally to protest what they say is a corrupt and inefficient Cabinet, demanding its resignation and early elections.
Protesters broke through police ranks as they tried to enter the building of leftist Socialist Party Prime Minister Edi Rama.
The main poster read “This is the end of the thieves,” while another was a picture of Rama’s face made to resemble that of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
The rally was organized by the center-right Democratic Party.
Demonstrators threw flares and other objects and tried to destroy a protective cover at the main door, which was later broken. They did not go inside.
They also broke down an art work on the side of the government building.
Police offered little resistance, staying on the side, although they used tear gas and water cannons, and spoke through loudspeakers calling on the protesters to disperse.
Two ambulances cars were seen taking protesters allegedly affected by the tear gas.
Police played cat-and-mouse with protesters, letting them break the cordon and get near the main building’s door, but using tear gas and rebuilding the cordon minutes later.
Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj called on political leaders to distance themselves from violence.
In an interview with The Associated Press before the rally, Democrats’ leader Lulzim Basha said they want the government to resign, a transitional Cabinet and early elections “in order to restore democracy through a parliament that is elected by the will of people and not the money or the threats of the criminals.”
President Ilir Meta called for restraint, saying that “citizens should be free to protest, and all the institutions should be respected.”
Rama on Saturday was holding a meeting with citizens in the southwestern port city of Vlora in an apparent electoral campaign stop for the municipal election in June.
This year Albania, a NATO member since 2009, hopes to get the European Union’s approval to launch full membership negotiations.
By LLAZAR SEMINI , Associated Press