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Albania opposition blocks main roads before June 18 vote

Albanian opposition supporters wave Albanian flags as they block a road at the entrance of the capital Tirana, Monday, April 24, 2017. Albanian opposition supporters have blocked the country's main road links, demanding that a caretaker cabinet be allowed to govern until the parliamentary election in June. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albanian opposition supporters blocked the country’s main roads Monday, demanding that a caretaker Cabinet be allowed to govern until the parliamentary election in June.

Thousands of opposition supporters blocked five national crossroads for an hour. Opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha said they were protesting “drug traffic, crime traffic, ballots traffic, corruption, money laundering traffic.”

The opposition has said that it will boycott the parliamentary election.

Protesters sat down on the roads holding national flags, shouting anti-government slogans, calling for the government to resign and for “free and fair” elections. Long lines of vehicles were backed up.

“This is a warning that the determination of this popular movement is invincible to achieve free and fair election,” Basha said before ending the protest.

No incidents were reported.

The opposition has planned a protest for May 7 in the western city of Kavaja, where an early local election is being held, threatening that it will try to prevent the voting there.

European Parliament negotiators were expected to arrive later Monday in an attempt to mediate between the governing left-wing coalition and the center-right opposition. The opposition so far has declined to negotiate unless Prime Minister Edi Rama resigns.

Local media reported that David McAllister and Knut Fleckenstein of the center-right European People’s Party, of which the country’s opposition is a member, are expected to come Tuesday on a one-day trip to Tirana. They will first meet separately with political leaders.

The EU and the U.S. have urged the opposition not to boycott parliament and the election.

The opposition alleges that the current Cabinet will manipulate the June 18 parliamentary vote. Since mid-February, its supporters have blocked the main boulevard in Tirana, the capital, with a large tent pitched outside Rama’s office.

“There is no technical (caretaker) government. There is voting on June 18,” Rama said in a comment on his Facebook page.

The opposition’s boycott of parliament since February also has blocked the launch of judicial reform, considered as key to starting EU membership negotiations.

Judicial reforms were unanimously approved last year but implementation has been hampered by the opposition boycott. Parliament needs to create the vetting bodies that will evaluate the backgrounds of around 800 judges and prosecutors.

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