Albanian lawmakers launch investigation to oust president

Albania's opposition parties have resumed anti-government protests after their boycott of June 30 municipal elections, which were mostly won by the governing Socialists

TIRANA, Albania -- Albania's opposition parties resumed anti-government protests Monday after their boycott of June 30 municipal elections, which were mostly won by the governing Socialists.

Opposition parties have organized protests since mid-February to air accusations that the Socialist government has links to organized crime and to demand new parliamentary elections. The party and government officials deny the allegations.

Supporters of the Democratic Party-led opposition gathered in front of Prime Minister Edi Rama's office Monday to again call for his resignation. The demonstration ended peacefully, and opposition leaders said they would continue the political fight.

All the earlier protests, except for one June 21, erupted in violence, with opposition supporters hurling firebombs at police and officers responding with tear gas and water cannon.

In the elections last month, the Socialists lost only in two of Albania's 61 municipalities, according to preliminary results. The mainly center-right opposition has refused to recognize the results.

The Albanian parliament voted Monday to set up a special commission to investigate and possibly oust President Ilir Meta for his unsuccessful attempt to cancel the municipal elections.

Socialist lawmakers said they think Meta's effort was unconstitutional. Meta, who belonged to a small opposition socialist party before assuming the presidency, has said he thought the elections would be invalid without opposition participation.

The nine-member special commission is expected to issue a report in three months.

Removing Meta from office would require support from at least 94 members of the 140-seat parliament, and the Socialists have only 74. If there was a successful vote to remove the president, the matter would then go for a final decision at the Constitutional Court, which has been dysfunctional since most of its judges were fired about a year ago.

Earlier Monday, Meta repeated his recent call that the Oct. 13 date he had scheduled as the new date for the municipal elections also be used for parliamentary and presidential elections. He considers the June 30 municipal elections as "not legally existing."


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