Albania's president says he is canceling upcoming municipal elections, asserting that conditions for a democratic vote are not present -- a move immediately rejected by the country's prime minister.
President Ilir Meta on June 8 said he called off the election because "the actual circumstances do not provide necessary conditions for true, democratic, representative, and all-inclusive elections," which had been set for June 30.
The announcement set him on collision course with Prime Minister Edi Rama of the ruling Socialist Party.
Speaking at a rally on June 8, Rama said Meta's decision to halt local elections was wrong and insisted they go forward to prevent political "blackmail" from being used to force the calling of early parliamentary elections.
Meta, a former Rama ally who has often become a critic, said he would explain his position further on June 10. It was not immediately clear if Rama could force the elections to proceed.
Protests continued in the capital, Tirana, on June 8 as thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets in recent months to protest against what they see as government corruption and vote-stealing in parliamentary elections two years ago.
The opposition, led by the center-right Democratic Party, alleged fraud in the 2017 vote, organized protests, cut ties to parliament, and demanded new parliamentary elections.
Rama's Socialist government dismissed the allegations. The government says the protests have hurt the country's image ahead of a decision by the European Union this month to decide whether to launch accession talks with Albania.
Meta has urged the opposition to keep protests peaceful. The United States and EU have warned the opposition against inciting violence and to hold talks with the ruling party.