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Albanian PM Vows To Hold Elections In Face Of Boycott, Protests


Albainan Prime Minister Edi Rama

TIRANA -- Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama says he will press on with local elections planned at the end of the month, setting up a clash with President Ilir Meta, who canceled the vote amid security concerns.

Speaking with RFE/RL's Balkan Service on June 21, Rama, who has led the country since 2013, said Meta's decision to cancel voting was an "individual act" that was "absolutely a nonbinding decision" and unconstitutional.

Meta said he called off the elections because the conditions for a democratic vote were not present.

Opposition supporters have called for a boycott of the balloting and have clashed with police in several incidents where they have tried to disrupt election preparations.

"Elections will be held all over Albania," Rama said during the interview in the capital, Tirana. "Those who are trying to stop that process are wrong. They are playing with fire and they are burning themselves in front of the law."

Political bickering has intensified in recent weeks in the Adriatic nation, with many Albanians taking to the streets to protest what they call government corruption and vote-stealing in 2017 parliamentary elections.

Rama's Socialist government has dismissed the allegations and he said in the interview there was a "real danger" that 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.

"Everything that is happening in Albania is a desperate attempt to stop the opening of [Albania's EU accession] negotiations," he said.

"The danger that this plan, which is clearly against national interests, could work is real because in the end, all that is happening will not help those who want to help us, but will feed those who do not want to help us. So, the danger is real, but we will not surrender until the end regardless."

The United States and European Union have warned the opposition against inciting violence and to hold talks with the ruling party.

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