Thousands of Kosovo opposition supporters protested peacefully on the eighth anniversary of the country’s independence Wednesday, shouting anti-government slogans and demanding its resignation and early elections.
The opposition parties reject an agreement that Kosovo and Serbia reached last year, giving more powers to ethnic Serbs in Kosovo. The Constitutional Court ruled in December that part of the deal was not in line with the constitution.
The opposition parties also reject a border demarcation deal with Montenegro.
Since last September, they have attempted to disrupt the work of parliament with tear gas, pepper spray and whistles.
The government accuses the opposition of attempts to come to power through acts of violence.
The opposition said that more than 100,000 people participated in Wednesday’s rally, while police said the numbered about 15,000.
“Kosovo will not allow itself to be led by people who have violated the constitution, its sovereignty,” said Visar Ymeri, leader of the main opposition Self-Determination Movement Party.
Ymeri set a February 27 deadline for the government to resign, opening the way for new elections, or “our protests will not stop,” he added.
Kosovo’s Western supporters, including the United States, have denounced the opposition-led violence and have called for the resolution of political differences in parliament.
Earlier Wednesday, the government held a ceremony to celebrate the eighth anniversary of the 2008 unilateral independence declaration with a military parade.
Ever since, Kosovo’s independence has been recognized by 111 countries, including the U.S. and major European Union nations.
Kosovo’s independence is rejected by Serbia, with support from Russia, which has blocked Kosovo from becoming a U.N. member.
Kosovo and Serbia are holding EU-mediated talks to try to overcome their differences.
VOA’s Albanian Service contributed to this report.
(Photo: Quinn Dombrowski/flickr.com)