Albania opposition blocks roads in call for PM to quit

Supporters of the Albanian opposition block roads to demand the prime minister's resignation

Albania's political opposition blocked the country's main roads for more than an hour on Monday to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Edi Rama, three months before a general election.

The right-wing opposition has been calling for the departure of the Socialist Party premier for more than 18 months in order to make way for a technical transitional government in the run-up to the June 19 vote.

Opposition parties, which are also boycotting parliament, have refused to take part in the election unless this transitional government is set up to ensure a free and fair poll.

They also accuse Rama of allowing the expansion of cannabis cultivation in Albania to raise money to manipulate voting.

Protesters blocked the entrances to highways as they waved Albanian flags and placards reading "Rama go!" and "We want a transitional government".

No incidents were reported during the protest, but police have warned organisers that they will be prosecuted if they "breach public order".

Lulzim Basha, leader of the opposition Democratic Party, told supporters that they would continue their protest movement "until the resignation of the prime minister and the establishment of a transitional government".

Rama rejects the accusations against him and has refused to resign or postpone the election.

"The time has come to build a modern democratic European state and not block roads and institutions," he said.

He accuses the opposition of trying to hinder the implementation of judicial reform, a crucial step towards European Union accession.

His opponents have called a meeting of their supporters in the western city of Kavaja on May 7, when a local election is being held, to show their ability to block a poll.

Since the fall of Albanian communism in the early 1990s, the results of elections have often been contested by the losing side, including with street protests that have sometimes turned violent.

A NATO member since 2009, the poor Balkan country has become a candidate for EU membership and hopes to open negotiations by the year's end.