Albania parliament rejects president's bid to cancel local polls

Tirana (AFP) –


Albania's ruling Socialist Party on Thursday voted down a move by President Ilir Meta to scrap local elections he viewed as undemocratic because of an opposition boycott.

The parliamentary motion deepened a political crisis festering since the opposition resigned en masse in February, launching weekly protests calling for the resignation of the Socialist Party's Prime Minister Edi Rama.

The battle intensified further after Meta on Saturday tried to scrap the June 30 vote that the opposition was boycotting, saying the poll would no longer be "free nor democratic" without their participation.

A resolution denouncing Meta for exceeding his powers under the constitution was adopted by 100 votes, with only seven against.

Rama, who had aready dismissed the president's move, vowed to press ahead with the vote, telling parliament that "Meta had lost his right to retain his post".

The president has no official party affiliation, but before assuming office in 2017 Meta led the then junior ruling Socialist Movement for Integration party, which is now in the opposition.

The opposition coalition, which draws from right-wing and centre-left parties, accuse Rama of crime and corruption links.

Their protests have at times turned violent, with demonstrators hurling Molotov cocktails and firecrackers as police respond with tear gas and hoses.

The unrest is seen as especially ill-timed for Rama, who is hoping this year to get a greenlight from the European Union to start accession talks to join the bloc.