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Thousands of protesters clash with police outside Albanian parliament

Supporters of the opposition party protest in front of a government building that houses the office of Prime Minister Edi Rama in Tirana, Albania Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP Tirana, Albania Feb 16, 2019, 09.52 PM (IST)

Thousands of opposition supporters protested outside the Albanian parliament Saturday, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Edi Rama, and clashed with police who used tear gas and water cannons.

The socialist prime minister has been in power since 2013. His critics accuse him of corruption.

Two police officers were hospitalised and four demonstrators had to be treated for breathing problems after the clashes, the health ministry said. Protesters tried repeatedly to break through police lines.

Several windows were broken as some demonstrators threw smoke grenades and stones towards the parliament building. 

Around 10 protesters also tried to force their into the building with an attempt to break down the entrance door, before being pushed back by police inside.

"The situation is out of control," Lulzim Basha, leader of the main opposition centre-right Democratic Party. He blamed the police for having let the demonstrators get too close to the building so as to "incite violence" and allow Rama to denounce the opposition.

Thousands of demonstrators were still massed outside parliament by the early afternoon, an AFP journalist said.

"The 16th of February will be the last day in power for Rama," Basha told a meeting of his supporters on Wednesday. "This regime must be overturned at all costs."

Saturday's demonstration in the capital is the latest in a series that Basha has organised.

An opposition coalition made up of five parties, ranging from the centre right to the centre left, has accused Rama of "collusion with organised crime" and having "plunged the country into corruption and poverty".

They want him to stand aside in favour of a government of technocrats who would prepare early parliamentary elections.

One of the characteristics of political life in Albania is the violence of its rhetoric. Both the left and the right have accused their opponents of corruption and of being linked to organised crime.