Algerian march ups pressure on government


Hundreds of Algerians marched in Algiers on Wednesday, stepping up pressure to cancel a December 12 presidential election.

Weekly protests take place on Tuesdays and Fridays since February and demonstrators appear eager to increase their street presence in the run -up to the vote.

Marching through Algiers protesters chanted “No vote, no vote” as security forces intervened to disperse them.

The protest movement started in February as veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika prepared to stand for another term in an election originally scheduled for July.

Thousands marched in Algiers and elsewhere calling for him and the old ruling elite that governed since independence from France in 1962 to quit.

Bouteflika stepped aside in April as the army withdrew its support and authorities began detaining his allies, senior officials and businessmen on corruption charges.

The July election was postponed creating a constitutional limbo with interim president Abdelkader Bensalah in place. The army and its chief Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah see the election as the only way to restore normality and quell protests.

Demonstrators reject any election while old members of the ruling elite are in place, saying it would not be fair.

The army, now the main player in Algeria’s politics, repeatedly vowed transparency for the vote, saying the military would not back any candidate.

The five men running in the election are all former senior officials, though some spoke out against Bouteflika or opposed him in earlier elections.

Since the presidential campaign officially began on Sunday, some protesters have hung bags of garbage or posters of detained opposition figures in public spaces reserved for election material.

A court on Tuesday imposed 18 month jail sentences on four protesters convicted of disrupting a Sunday election event. Human Rights Watch said detention of scores of demonstrators recently appeared aimed at weakening the protest movement.