Protests erupt in Albania

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Demonstrators were in the streets in Albania as well today. The World's Matthew Brunwasser reports from the capital, Tirana.

In Europe, the international community is trying to keep Albania from falling apart. During communism, Albania was a North Korea-style hermit state. It's come a long way since descending into chaos and riots following the collapse of pyramid schemes in 1997.

It joined NATO in 2009 and was granted visa-free travel in Europe last month. Lonely Planet ranked it number one on its top ten list of countries to see in 2011. But last Friday, three demonstrators were shot and killed by police. Despite international calls for calm, the opposition turned up the tension by pressing on with another demonstration today.

Political life in Albania has boiled down to one conflict between two men: Prime Minister Sali Berisha and Opposition Social Party leader Edi Rama. Analyst Lutfi Dervishi says that Albanian politics ? and political rallies ? are no longer about ideas.

?What we see now it's a kind of a military strategy, where you mobilize in every corner of the country your supporters and militants and bring here in a show of force,? Dervishi said. ?This is a nasty and unacceptable way of doing politics. It should be about programs and policies and everyday life but it's not.?

Opposition supporters held a somber march Friday in Tirana. It was to commemorate three demonstrators shot and killed during last week's anti-government rally which got out of hand.

The opposition accuses the government of abuse of power, corruption, and rigging elections in 2009. They've held protests off and on ever since, demanding the Prime Minister's resignation. Socialist Party leader Edi Rama said despite last week's tragedy, he won't give up the fight.

?To guarantee the democratic process and the next elections,? Rama said. ?Based on a very simple truth: if the government can take your votes when you don't give it, the government doesn't have to care about you anymore because it's not depending on the people's judgments anymore.?

Albania is one of the most pro-US countries in the world. It contributes soldiers to the coalition in Afghanistan. But even very public calls by the American ambassador in Tirana to simmer down didn't sway Rama. He and his supporters went ahead with the protest Friday anyway.

Prime Minister Sali Berisha calls his rival's behavior ?reckless.?

?An attempt to topple a legitimate government must be condemned,? Berisha said. ?This is a NATO member country. This is a legitimate government. I could not be toppled through force. This is very wrong. Now this is very crucial.?

Berisha said he has accepted a US offer to help investigate how and why protestors were killed at last week's demonstrations. But the opposition doubts that the truth will ever be known.

The Prime Minister has already prevented a prosecutor from issuing warrants for the arrest of six national guard officers ? a move seen as unconstitutional interference.

?I know that if the politicians interfere in the investigative process, nothing will be revealed at all,? said Helidon Tahiraj, a writer and former prosecutor in Tirana. ?If they leave it to the investigator and prosecution, they will find something.?

But, its not just opposition politicians who are skeptical, on the streets of Tirana, Albanians themselves don't believe the truth will ever come out.

Eralda Murataj, a student of finance, said she knows why people are so angry.

?The situation here is really really really hard on people,? Murataj said. ?They are losing jobs, and they are finding themselves homeless with no income at all. So I think that must be it. And the political situation got worse after revelations of corruption.?

Tirana is still on edge for more demonstrations. While the world watches as Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen heave in their quest for self-governance, many in Albania worry whether their democracy will survive.