Tens of thousands people thronged the main square of the Albanian capital yesterday, vowing to stay there until the government allows a partial recount of an election the opposition claims involved vote-rigging.
Prime Minister Sali Berisha's conservatives narrowly won the June 28 general election, but the opposition Socialists have been boycotting parliament for months, demanding the recount of ballots in several districts.
The government has called that demand illegal.
Berisha's Democrats and allies control 75 of parliament's 140 seats.
Socialist leader Edi Rama urged the demonstrators to show "peaceful resistance" with a campaign of disobedience against the government until the recount demand is met.
"We must all tell the government that its fate begins and ends with our call: Open the ballot boxes or leave," said Rama.
Socialist Party spokeswoman Armela Ymeraj said the rally, which also blamed the government for economic hardships in the impoverished Balkan country, would continue for days.
"The rally is a nonstop one until the government decides to reform or to recount the election votes," she said.
The international community has pressed new NATO-member Albania to resolve the deadlock, which could hamper its efforts to join the European Union.
"Does Berisha see this? We are many. We just want a fair electoral game," said Ilir Tiko, one of the protesters in Tirana's vast Skenderbeg Square.
Another demonstrator, Sanie Behari, said she was protesting poverty.
"Do they understand we can't live with such high prices?" she said of the government. "Sure, they can with their salaries. We just want a better life."
Rama also said: "Albanians' economic crisis is a painful consequence of destructive politics aimed only at keeping Sali Berisha in power."
The rally was peaceful, with many of the demonstrators holding Albanian or opposition party flags, and shouting: "Down with Berisha."
Hundreds of unarmed policemen formed a line around the main government building. A small number of policemen in riot gear stood behind a nearby wall.
The governing Democrats plan to hold a public concert Saturday for the May 1 Labor Day holiday to celebrate what they describe as successful reforms aimed at Albania's EU membership.Reuse content