Protests in Algeria ahead of election


Young Algerians protesting against a presidential election candidate scuffled with riot police on Wednesday, residents said, as pressure builds between the ruling elite and its opponents before the December 12 vote.

Peaceful mass protests have happened weekly this year across Algeria, dislodging veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April and continuing to demand the rest of the old guard leaders step aside.

Protesters and police mostly avoided violence since the start of demonstrations in February.

Protesters oppose the election to replace Bouteflika, saying it cannot be fair as long as his allies retain positions of power and the army plays a role in politics.

Since the start of the official election campaign, the number of protests increased and authorities detained more demonstrators.

On Wednesday, hundreds of protesters in Bouira, east of Algiers, prevented candidate Ali Benflis leading a campaign rally.

They surrounded the meeting room and chanted “No election with the gang” a reference to the ruling hierarchy, before scuffles broke out.

Several protesters were injured, local residents said. Bouira resident Akli Said said several protesters were arrested. There was no official confirmation from the Justice Ministry.

The army, the strongest institution in the country, repeatedly said the election is the only solution to the crisis.

Dozens of key decision makers from Bouteflika’s era are behind bars pn cases of alleged corruption including two former prime ministers, 12 ministers, two intelligence chiefs and senior generals.

A low turnout would mean Algeria’s next president would have little margin of manoeuvre to reform the economy and diversify from oil and gas sales.