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Europe
Albanians demand vote recount
Opposition socialists plan hunger strike as stalemate over June elections drags on.
Last Modified: 01 May 2010 17:40 GMT

Thousands of government supporters also gathered in Tirana to call for Albania's EU accession [AFP]

Thousands of opposition protesters have gathered in the Albanian capital, Tirana, to demand a recount of votes from last June's parliamentary elections.

At least 200 of them, including 22 Socialist party supporters, put up tents in a central square where they planned to stage a hunger strike, party officials said.

"This is a sacrifice we will make till the very end," Edi Rama, the leader of the Socialist party and mayor of Tirana, told protestors at Saturday's rally.

The protest and hunger strike were the latest developments in a political crisis that has brought the workings of government to a virtual standstill since the elections.

The coalition government of Sali Berisha, the country's prime minister, won 75 of parliament's 140 seats on June 28, but the socialists have said that the result was manipulated.

They have boycotted parliament to press their call for a recount, a demand that Berisha has said is illegal.

'Battle for transparency'

Rama on Saturday called for protests be held throughout the country, urging Albanians to erect a "human barricade against the government".

"Protesters [have boosted] our battle for transparency and expressed their unshaken will to stop the economic ruin," he said.

Meanwhile, thousands of government supporters gathered in another square nearby, in a festive mood, carrying placards "Celebrate May 1, with Yes to Europe".

Carrying Albanian and European flags, they listened to a brief message from Berisha, saying that Albania "is on the way to its European future".

"Let's invite every citizen of this country to continue on the road toward Europe," he said.

Hundreds of police, including anti-riot units, were deployed between the two groups to avoid clashes.

Albania submitted its candidacy for EU membership in April last year and hopes to quickly obtain the lifting of visa requirements for its citizens to travel throughout the Schengen zone, which covers most EU countries.

But the political deadlock has undermined its EU ambitions, as European officials have warned the two sides they must find a solution to the stalemate.

Source:
Agencies
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