December 18, 2017 / 3:14 PM / a year ago

Scuffles, flares as Albania picks interim prosecutor

TIRANA (Reuters) - Opposition lawmakers threw a flare at Albania’s interim prosecutor general as she took the oath of office in parliament on Monday while their supporters scuffled with police outside.

Albania's opposition lawmakers throw smoke bombs inside the Parliament during the election of the new prosecutor, in Albanian Parliament in Tirana, Albania December 18, 2017. REUTERS/STRINGER

Several protesters and policemen were hurt as the crowd tried to get inside the chamber, egged on by one lawmaker. It later dispersed.

Arta Marku, 41, was elected as interim prosecutor general with 69 votes from the ruling Socialist Party.

Albania is rebuilding its judiciary to enable it to fight corruption but the body to elect a prosecutor general has yet to be set up because the reform has dragged on.

Under pressure from the European Union to crack down on crime and graft, the Socialists chose to elect an interim prosecutor.

The opposition was enraged because it says a prosecutor should be installed once some 800 judges and prosecutors are vetted and elected with three-fifths of votes in parliament.

Democratic Party head Lulzim Basha accused Prime Minister Edi Rama of a constitutional “putsch” in an effort to protect corrupt officials, including his former interior minister.

“We shall not become the facade of this criminal autocracy,” Basha told the crowd. He called for protests in January.

The Socialists say the opposition Democrats rejected dialogue despite several offers this month.

“Electing a prosecutor with our votes was legitimate, constitutional, and this was confirmed by the U.S. and EU teams assisting the reform of the judiciary,” Rama told reporters.

The European Commission has made it clear to Albania it wants to see results in the fight against crime and corruption before asks its members to approve accession talks with Tirana.

Reporting By Benet Koleka, Editing by Angus MacSwan

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