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Tens of thousands of Albanians protest rising costs

Fights break out as large crowds gather outside Prime Minister Edi Rama’s office to protest corruption and rising costs.

Police and protesters in Albania brawled outside Prime Minister Edi Rama’s office in Tirana after tens of thousands of people gathered there to protest corruption and the country’s cost of living crisis.

After demonstrating peacefully for about three hours, protesters broke through the police cordon around Rama’s office on Saturday and sprayed red and black paint on the main doors of the government building.

The police arrested a protester.

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Others lit candles in memory of two men who, according to the opposition, died while in police custody.

Albania has seen an 8 percent price increase this year, especially for food and basic fuels, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Rama says his cabinet has kept inflation low compared to double-digit inflation elsewhere in Europe, noting that the government subsidizes electricity for families and small businesses.

Opposition supporters have also blamed Rama for the thousands of young people who leave the country each year in search of a better life.

“Just like 32 years ago, the world sees us as people [arriving in] small boats,” said Sali Berisha, leader of the opposition Democratic Party, referring to the growing number of Albanians arriving in the UK.

The protest is seen in Albania as an attempt by Berisha to flex his muscles ahead of local elections in May 2023.

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Berisha, who previously served as president and prime minister, was banned from entering the United States in 2021 for alleged corruption.

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He denies any wrongdoing.

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