13 November 2008Â TiranaÂ – Ten lawmakers from Albania’s smaller parliamentary parties are continuing the hunger strike they began on Monday in the parliament building to protest against proposed changes to the electoral code.
Thousands of protesters have gathered outside the parliament building in support of the striking deputies, calling for free and fair elections in the summer of 2009.
Despite the hunger strike in the parliament hall, Thursday’s session went ahead, largely ignoring the striking deputies.
The deputies accuse the Democratic Party of Prime Minister Sali Berisha and the opposition Socialist Party of striking a deal to change the electoral code, which, opponents of the initiative argue, will be used to rig next year’s election.
“We will not leave this room alive without reaching our goal,” said Frrok Gjini, one of the Christian Democrat MPs on hunger strike.
Independent MP Spartak Ngjela praised the strike as a measure to protect the constitution.
“We, the deputies and heads of the undersigned parliamentary parties, in protection of the constitution and free elections, have decided to go on hunger strike to alert the public to a coup d’etat which is being prepared,” reads an open letter sent by the deputies to Albania’s President Bamir Topi last week.
The strikers include members of former Prime Minister Ilir Meta’s Socialist Movement for Integration, Christian Democrats and deputies from a new splinter party from the Socialists, PS91.
They charge that the changes proposed by the larger parties in the electoral code are designed to push the smaller parties out of parliament.