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Albanian protesters clash with police in election dispute

Anti-government supporters hold an Albanian flag in front of police during a protest in Tirana
Anti-government supporters hold an Albanian flag in front of police during a protest in Tirana Copyright REUTERS/Florion GogaREUTERS/Florion Goga
Copyright REUTERS/Florion Goga
By Sinead Barry with Reuters
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President Ilir Meta called off upcoming local elections but the ruling socialist party has continued to campaign.

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Opposition demonstrators attempted to storm a school in Albania overnight in a bid to disrupt planned municipal elections later this month.

The crowd tore down a section of iron fence at the building, which is to act as vote-counting centre in Kavaje. Police responded with tear gas to which the crowd threw back stones and flares.

The clashes arise from a dispute about local elections on June 30th.

President Ilir Meta postponed the elections earlier this month amid security concerns. However, Prime Minister Edi Rama's ruling socialist party have ignored the decree and are continuing to campaign as usual.

Opposition parties have boycotted the parliament since February and accuse Rama of vote-buying. They want him to step down so that a snap national election can be held.

14 towns run by opposition supporters have been involved in clashes with police since Tuesday.

During Wednesday's clash, protestors burned election equipment at three different locations chanting "Rama quit" and "There will be no elections without the Democratic Party". Police dispersed one of these locations with pepper spray.

The instability comes at a crucial time for Albania's bid to enter the European Union, accession talks of which have been delayed until autumn of this year.

Rama took to Twitter to express his anger at the election resistance, saying "This shameful war against Albania will fail."

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