Protesters rally on Kosovo independence day

Opposition is expected to hold a 'record-breaking' protest calling for the government's resignation and early elections over a deal with Serbia

Protesters rally on Kosovo independence day

World Bulletin / News Desk

Thousands of protesters gathered in Kosovo's capital Wednesday for a major anti-government rally to mark their eighth anniversary of independence from Serbia, with authorities appealing for a peaceful demonstration.

After a morning of official celebrations in the capital Pristina, including a military parade, demonstrators arrived for what opposition parties expected to be a "record-breaking" protest calling for the government's resignation and early elections.

"We will shake the tree on which the rotten apples in government hang," opposition MP and protest ringleader Albin Kurti said ahead of the rally.

The breakaway province of mostly ethnic Albanians unilaterally declared its independence from Belgrade in February 2008, a move since recognised by more than 100 countries but not by Serbia or Russia.

Today Kosovo faces a political deadlock, with opposition MPs particularly angry over a government deal with Serbia, brokered by the European Union, to create an association giving greater powers to Kosovo's Serb minority. 

The opposition wants the deal annulled, fearing it will deepen Kosovo's ethnic divisions and increase the reach of former master Serbia, against whom Kosovo's pro-independence ethnic Albanian rebels fought a war in the late 1990s.

Protesters also accuse the authorities of widespread corruption, lagging development and a disregard for Muslim-majority Kosovo's 1.8 million people, 70 percent of whom are younger than 35. 

"Kosovo is led by a corrupt government that only takes care of its own interests and is ready to sign the most harmful agreements, only to secure international support and extend its rule," 27-year-old law graduate Bedri Hamiti, who has spent five years looking for a job, said ahead of the rally.

According to the World Bank, the unemployment rate in Kosovo is around 40 percent.

President Atifete Jahjaga said the people of Kosovo had a "democratic right" to make their wishes known through a demonstration but appealed for a "dignified and peaceful protest".

For the past four months, opposition parties have effectively blocked the normal functioning of parliament by releasing tear gas in the chamber at the start of every session.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 17 Şubat 2016, 15:47