Defeated Berisha's supporters cling to gun-power

Die-hard supporters of Albania's President Sali Berisha vented their frustration over the ruling Democratic Party's crushing electoral defeat yesterday with an intimidatory show of force around Tirana. They showed special venom for foreign journalists in the capital by barging into news conferences with guns and throwing well-aimed punches.

An Italian cameraman was beaten outside the Democratic Party's headquarters on Monday night and had his equipment stolen, as party faithful hurled accusations of bias at the foreign press. An observer for Human Rights Watch who had been critical of the Berisha regime, Fred Abrahams, was slapped and kicked during a news conference yesterday given by two senior party figures, Genc Pollo and Tritan Shehu.

Joanna Robertson, a reporter for the BBC and the Guardian, was fired at several times by an unidentified man emerging from a Mercedes on a beach near Durres. She escaped unharmed after the owner of a nearby restaurant, who knew her, chased the man away with blasts from his Kalashnikov.

Although President Berisha has urged his supporters to accept the election result, which handed an overwhelming victory to the opposition Socialist Party, the men with guns have managed to clear the streets a good hour before the start of curfew at 10pm.

On Monday night, men identified as members of the presidential guard drove up and down Tirana's main boulevard firing automatic weapons into the air. Another group climbed to the top of the Palace of Culture and created a cacophony of machine-gun fire and grenade explosions.

Such behaviour is being interpreted as the last gasp of an autocratic regime that knows the game is up. A number of notorious strongmen, including the police chief Agim Shehu and the head of the presidential guard, Xhahid Xhaferri, have left the country. President Berisha himself was described as looking dejected and lost by international officials who met him yesterday.

The risk of serious disruption nevertheless exists, especially during the limbo period before full election results are known. Yesterday the would-be king of Albania, Leka Zogu, gave a press conference accompanied by about 200 thugs, many of them armed, who chanted slogans and applauded as their hero complained he had been robbed of victory in Sunday's referendum on the reintroduction of the monarchy. Some of the thugs were identified as members of Mr Berisha's retinue.

Complete results are not expected until today because of delays in communication between far-flung constituencies and the central electoral commission in Tirana. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the count appeared to be conducted professionally. Latest indications suggested there would be more than 30 run-offs in the second round this Sunday, and up to 20 re-runs because of irregularities or outbreaks of violence. The Socialists still appeared to have a commanding majority, but not as big as the results announced by the party on Monday.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: .NET Developer / Web Developer

£35-45K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer / Web ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

£18000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first ...

Recruitment Genius: .NET Web / Software Developer - ASP.NET

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Small and agile digital marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Accountant

£12000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A national firm of chartered ce...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders