Albanian opposition MPs start fire inside parliament in anti-government protest

Albanian opposition MPs start fire inside parliament in anti-government protest
An opposition MP sets off a flare inside the parliament. / Flameur Noka via Facebook
By bne IntelliNews November 20, 2023

Albanian opposition MPs set of flares and started a small fire inside the parliament on November 20, in an attempt to prevent the vote on the 2024 budget. 

Protesting against the budget drawn up by the ruling Socialist Party, MPs piled chairs in the middle of the chamber and set off coloured flares, releasing clouds of smoke. 

Video footage from the chamber shows one MP lighting a small fire and passing it forward in a container. The flames briefly spread before being extinguished by surrounding politicians.

Security personnel intervened to prevent protesters from reaching Prime Minister Edi Rama's seat.

“They [the opposition] introduced the vocabulary and manners of the street into politics ... They have already reached the end,” wrote Rama on social network X after the session. 

Opposition MPs have several times disrupted parliament sessions and physically clashed with Socialist MPs amid debates on the budget for next year. 

They claim the budget only benefits the Socialists and people associated with the party. 

On November 2, opposition MPs also lit flares and built a barricade of chairs in front of the podium. Previously, on October 30, verbal confrontations escalated into physical clashes

Opposition frustrations have erupted after over 10 years of Socialist rule in Albania. Rama's party has been in power since 2013, winning three consecutive elections.

Opposition Sali Berisha accused the government of attempting to stifle opposition voices within the parliament. 

Corruption charges have recently been announced against Berisha and his son-in concerning a land privatisation deal dating back to Berisha's time as prime minister. 

Berisha, also a former president of Albania, is a controversial figure, who has been sanctioned by the US alleged involvement in corruption. 

Berisha served as Albania’s prime minister from 2005-2013 and as president from 1992-1997. He stepped down as leader of the opposition Democratic Party in 2013, after it lost power to Rama’s Socialists, but announced his intention to return as party leader following the party’s latest general election defeat in 2021. Since then, the party has been torn apart by political infighting between Berisha and his rivals.