Anger against Albanian prime minister Edi Rama mounted on Saturday as thousands of protesters took to the streets in the capital city of Tirana, some of whom hurled petrol bombs at his office gate.
For the past three months, protests have erupted all over the country calling for Rama to quit over his alleged involvement in corruption and election fraud. Protesters have been calling for snap polls after their lawmakers cut ties with the parliament.
The demonstrators have often harked back on the popular slogan "We want a European Albania", which had been used during pro-democracy demonstrations when the Balkan country ditched communism in 1990.
Opposition leader Lulzim Basha has urged his supporters to protest relentlessly until Rama relinquishes power. Basha said they were “determined to keep waging a bigger and more resolute battle as long as the government was keeping Albania apart from Europe”.
On Saturday, the protests grew violent as demonstrators, some of whom wore masks, threw petrol bombs and firecrackers at the entrance of the government building. Some also used paint to desecrate the office gate.
Both, policemen and protesters were injured in the violence, reports said.
Protesters also threw petrol bombs at the parliament building where the police responded with water jets and tear gas.
“We are here with a mission, to liberate Albania from crime and corruption, to make Albania like the rest of Europe,” Basha told a raging public.
A few hours later, the crowd descended upon the Tirana police precinct to protest the arrest of a Democratic party official.
The European Union and the US have called the current government legitimate, urging opposition to return to parliament and take part in local elections on June 30.
“The opposition’s stated objective to make Albania’s democracy stronger runs counter to the violence currently being perpetrated by protesters,” the United States Embassy said in a statement, condemning the violence and calling for restraint.
Rama called the opposition's policies "blind", saying he was saddened to hear an opposition leader begging his government to quit. "Their fire harmed not the government, but the country," he said.