Albania: “Peaceful campaign for general elections” but “rallies for and against Erdogan”
Balkan Insight /Dhuna
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 06/21/2013
TIRANA, Albania — Political parties in Albania are entering their final day of campaigning for Sunday’s general elections, considered a test for the Balkan country to shed its history of troubled campaigns as it seeks closer ties and eventual membership in the European Union.
Conservative Prime Minister Sali Berisha, 68, is seeking a third term and will speak at his Democratic Party’s main election rally Friday in the capital Tirana.
He is facing a strong challenge from 48-year-old Socialist Edi Rama, whose campaign has concentrated on the enduring levels of poverty in the country that has 3.3 million registered voters.
The monthlong election contest has been relatively calm, unlike past elections that were frequently marred by violence.
Rallies for and against the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan were staged on Wedneday in the Albanian capital.
Nearly two dozen protestors gathered at the Polytechnic University of Tirana expressing solidarity with Turkish activists protesting against the Erdogan government.
They held up banners ridiculing Erdogan and declared: “Down with fascism.”
Police detained three of the activists, accusing them of making racist slogans in public but later released them.
The protest was staged in response to a pro-Erdogan rally held by a small political party, the Movement for a New Albania, at the same time, which drew nearly 100 people.
Turkey has been gripped by protests and strikes since May 31, when police raided a sit-in in one of the few remaining green spaces in central Istanbul. The crackdown outraged many people across the country, sparking mass rallies in Istanbul and Ankara.
Although the initial protest was about a park, subsequent supporting protests and strikes have focused on a wider range of concerns, such as freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the government’s encroachment on Turkey’s traditional secularism.