Protests that erupted in Albania over a sharp jump in fuel prices have been going on for almost a week. Thousands took to the streets over the weekend and said they would protest every day until their demands for lower prices were met.
There is no visible participation of political parties in the mass protests. Mašina’s reporters talked with activist Redi Muçi, who said the protests resulted from accumulated anger that people could no longer contain when fuel prices soared.
“The immediate cause for the protests is indeed the fuel prices skyrocketing in unprecedented heights as well as fluctuating upwards, at one point three times within a single day”, explains Muçi.
It is estimated that Albanian citizens with average incomes should set aside 20% of their daily earnings to cover fuel costs. This price increase also increased the price of the consumer basket, says Organiza Politike’s member.
The drastic price increases are happening in a country where, according to the World Bank, one third of the population lives at the poverty line, subsisting on about 4.5 euros a day.
The long-term cooperation between the oligarchs, in whose hands lie a large part of the economy and the government, also contributes to people’s dissatisfaction.
“Every sector of the Albanian economy is in the hands of a monopoly, controlled by a handful of oligarchs in cahoots with the PM Edi Rama. The so-called Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) schemes have functioned as a mechanism for feeding public money to private profiteers.”
Corruption helped increase the public debt to a historic high of more than 80%, explains Muçi.
The citizens’ dissatisfaction is intensified by the two social crises that have affected Albanian society in recent years. Namely, in November 2019, 50 people lost their lives to an earthquake that also left many families homeless, while the COVID-19 pandemic, which began only a few months later, took twice as many lives as the European average. “In both cases, the reaction of the government was inadequate,” Muçi tells us.
Asked about the organizers and ways of organizing the protest, Muçi answered that for now, the protests are mostly organized bottom-up. Particular civil society actors are calling for protests and participation is heterogeneous. Organizata Politike has been active in protests from the beginning.
“We, as activists of Organizata Politike, have been on the square from day one and have tried to mobilize as many people as possible. So far, no political party figures from the opposition have dared to approach the protesting citizens, since one of the most articulated demands from the protesters has been that no politician should take advantage of the protest, given that they are all discredited in the eyes of the protesters.”
The English translation of this text is published in collaboration with Eastern European Leftist Media Outlet (ELMO).
Translation from Serbian: Iskra Krstić
This article was ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED in Serbian on Mar 14, 2022.