Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

After Albania Violence, a Fragile Calm

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

After Albania Violence, a Fragile Calm

Article excerpt

Albania was quiet Monday after deadly protests Friday. Prime Minister Sali Berisha last week accused Socialist opposition leader Edvin Rama of attempting a 'Tunisian-style' coup.

International calls for calm and suspension of protest took fragile hold in Albania today - after the latest chapter in an ugly cat fight between Tirana's two most charismatic political figures put Albania in turmoil after three protesters were shot Friday outside the prime minister's office.

Prime Minister Sali Berisha last week accused Socialist opposition leader Edvin Rama of attempting a "Tunisian-style" coup by massing protest at his office. Crowds swelled to more than 100,000 before two dozen were injured Jan. 21 in a melee that started with egg- and rock-throwing.

Mr. Rama met today with Albanian President Bamir Topi and Western ambassadors. Mr. Berisha said he will postpone counter-protests until next Saturday.

But a climate of grudges and anger as well as political gridlock has not abated.

Directed by Berisha, the Albanian parliament organized a formal probe into the opposition protest to "reveal the truth about the coup d'etat staged Jan. 21 with the aim of overthrowing the constitutional order," as stated by Jozefina Topalli, the parliament speaker.

Yet few experts see Albania, with its free press and bludgeoning political invective, as anything like the repressive Tunisia of now- ousted president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

Rather, the Albanian turmoil follows massive frustration on all sides in a nation whose capital, Tirana, is a cosmopolitan oasis in an otherwise-medieval landscape lacking roads and infrastructure.

Mr. Rama, in his last term as mayor of Tirana, a city he helped transform with paint, rebuilding, and elegant coffee houses, tapped his base to vent popular frustration with corruption after a ruling party minister got caught on tape via YouTube offering a kickback on an energy project.

More deeply, the protest reprises a similar challenge after elections in 2009 that Berisha won by a sliver, amid fraud allegations substantial enough to lead the European Union to reject Albania's bid for membership.

Rama's Socialists opted out of government for six months after the election. …

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