Three were shot dead by police in protests in the Albanian capital Tirana Jan. 21, with 40 demonstrators and 17 police officers reported injured. Violence broke out as hundreds of protesters pushed against the police barricade set up to protect the prime minister’s office, some hurling firecrackers and stones. Police responded with tear gas, a water cannon, and then live fire. Running clashes ensued, with protesters setting fire to police cars. “The bastard children of Albania’s own Ben Alis conceived Tunisian scenarios…for you citizens of Albania,” said Prime Minister Sali Berisha, comparing his political opponents with the ousted Tunisian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.
“Albania is not in a state of emergency and will not pass into a state of emergency. But scenarios of violence will not be tolerated,” Berisha added. The opposition had called for the protest to demand early elections, following a series of high-profile corruption scandals. Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta resigned after a private TV station aired a video that it said showed him asking a colleague to influence the awarding of a contract to build a power station. Albania’s ruling Democratic Party and the opposition Socialists have been caught in an intense power struggle over the past two years, which has seen several massive opposition protests. (Balkan Insight, AlJazeera, AP, Jan. 22)