- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
The less-noticed political rioting of the past month:
The latest illustration of violent tussle between two opposing camps occurred Friday, when a crowd tried to storm the office of Prime Minister Sali Berisha. The five-hour clash left three protesters dead, about 60 hurt and 113 arrested. Opposition supporters threw sticks and stones at the building, while the police responded with tear gas, water cannons and firearms.
Mr. Berisha said in an interview that watching the crowd made him “sad” for his country. “No one should try to topple a legitimately elected government with 200-300 paid thugs,” he said in the prime minister’s office, which his own supporters tried to storm in 1998 when Fatos Nano held the post and Mr. Berisha was an opposition leader.
“If they use violence, you must react,” said Mr. Berisha, a former president who has been in top office for more than half of Albania’s post-communist history. “The police showed extraordinary professionalism.” He vowed he would not be dislodged from power.
The battle was part of a long and increasingly shrill conflict between Mr. Berisha and Edi Rama, leader of the opposition Socialists. Mr. Rama, mayor of Tirana since 2000, demands Mr. Berisha’s resignation and continues to challenge the results of the elections in 2009 that gave him his second four-year term as prime minister.
Rama’s supporters have called another rally for this Friday and security is apparently on high alert. EU officials are warning the Albanian government that further unrest could hamper its aspirations for membership.