Members of Albania’s opposition Democratic Party set off smoke bombs and lit a small fire, quickly extinguished, in the middle of parliament on Monday in a failed bid to stop the chamber from voting on the 2024 budget.
A number of MPs piled chairs in the centre of the chamber while red, green and purple smoke filled the air. The disruptive politicians were kept away from Edi Rama, the prime minister, by a protective ring of security guards during the incident.
One parliamentarian appeared to light a small fire that was passed forward in a container before flames began to spread which were then doused by surrounding MPs.
The de facto leader of the party, Sali Berisha, a former prime minister, has accused the government of trying to silence the opposition in parliament where Rama’s Socialist Party has a majority.
Bringing ‘pluralism to parliament’
“The battle has no way back,” Berisha told reporters after the disturbance in the chamber where the budget passed a first vote in a session that lasted less than five minutes. “Our goal is to bring pluralism to parliament,” he added.
Last month, prosecutors charged Berisha and his son-in-law with corruption over a land deal involving the grounds of a sports club. They accused him of using his influence as premier from 2005 to 2009 to exert pressure “for the conclusion of the privatisation procedures in favour of others including his daughter’s husband”.
His son-in-law was arrested but Berisha has immunity from prosecution as an MP. He has been ordered not to leave the country.
Berisha accuses Mr Rama of orchestrating the prosecution against him. An accusation that the prime minister denies.
“They [the opposition] brought the vocabulary and manners of the street into politics,” Mr Rama wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, after the disturbance.