Rallies and parliament boycotts in Albania, Montenegro and Serbia: Democracy’s endemic problems in the Balkans

The Albanian parliament resumed its operations on Tuesday for the first time since oppositions Parliamentary Members (MPs) handed over their resignation. A massive protest took place in the fringes of this political development, with quite intense skirmishes being recorded between the police and demonstrators. Prime Minister Edi Rama did not attend the parliamentary convention.

Demonstrators requested for once again the removal of Edi Rama from his position. Several MPs entered the parliament through side entries, except for the Albanian Minister of Tourism and the Environment, Blenid Klosi. The Albanian Minister attempted to enter the parliament by bypassing the demonstrators. He was successfully escorted within the parliament premises by his personal security officers who absorbed most of incoming verbal and physical attacks by the angry mob. As skirmishes between police forces and protesters intensified, the rally attempted to break the police forces security line made in front of the parliament. The police response became more violent and threw teargas on the mob. The rally was temporarily dissolved from teargas, but soon started regrouping after the Democratic Party head Lulzim Basha spoke in public to the protesters.

Concurrently, similar parliamentary issues and mass rallies have also undermined Serbia’s and Montenegro’s internal political stability. In Serbia, the Alliance of Serbia party withdrew from the parliament and municipal assembly meetings citing abuses of power perpetrated by members of the Serbian Progressive Party, which is headed by President Aleksandar Vucic. Meanwhile, an attempted assault against Sebian Left party leader Borko Stefanovic on Monday, resulted in mass demonstrations in Belgrade. Protesters put stickers slamming Serbian President’s promises on public properties including public radio headquarters and RTS TV channel.

In the case of Montenegro, the state is currently into parliamentary disarray after fraud allegations in the October 2016 elections have monopolised interest of the public agenda. Several members have boycotted the parliament and despite the return of the Democratic Front to the parliament in June 2018, several smaller parties have chosen to continue snubbing the institution. Last Saturday, a mass demonstration took place against the continuous 30-year rule of President Milo Djukanovic and a series of other high-ranking officials on allegations for corruption. Demonstrations requested resignation of the President and his circle of allies on corruption charges but also criticised the Supreme State Prosecutor, Ivica Stankovic, and the Chief Prosecutor for Organized Crime Milivoje Katnic for facilitating the President’s illicit activities.

On Monday the European Commission Spokesperson Maja Kocijancic declared that although the political situation in Albania, Montenegro and Serbia remains tense, faith in democratic institutions must be restored and dissenting parties must return to their parliaments to hold potential offenders accountable.

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