Algerians demand reforms, delay in presidential vote - GulfToday

Algerians demand reforms, delay in presidential vote

Algeria-Protestes

Police scuffle with protesters outside the Grand Post Office in Algiers on Friday. Agence France-Presse

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in the capital and other Algerian cities on Friday to demand the postponement of a presidential election and the removal of the ruling elite following the end of Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s 20-year-rule last month.

A political source said the interim government was expected to extend the current transition period to allow time for preparations for the election.

Friday’s protest marked the 14th consecutive week of demonstrations.

They have continued through the Holy Month of Ramadan although numbers of the crowds are smaller than at the peak of the anti-Bouteflika protests.

They are calling for political reforms and the removal of all the clique of officials who have governed the North African nation since independence from France in 1962.

Bouteflika’s removal paved the way for a transition period that is due to end with a presidential election on July 4.

But demonstrators now demand the resignation of interim officials in charge of supervising the vote, including interim president Abdelkader Bensalah, who replaced Bouteflika for 90 days until the election, and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui.

“No to the July 4 election,” protesters draped in national flags chanted as thay marched in central Algiers. Many held up banners that read: “Bensalah go, Bedoui go.”

Similar protests broke out in Algeria’s other main cities, including Annaba, Oran and Constantine.

The political source said the transtion period, which is due to end a few days after the scheduled July 4 election, could be extended by at least three months.

“Time is runing out and organisers have not finished preparations for the vote,” the source said.

Armed forces chief of staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah said last week that elections were the only way to get out of the crisis, but did not mention a date for the vote.

He reiterated calls for appeasement, mentioning the army’s positive response to demonstrators’ demands for the prosecution of people seen as corrupt.

Bouetflika’s youngest brother Said and two former intelligence generals have been put in custody on charges of harming the army’s authority and plotting against state authority.

Several businessmen have also been detained over allegations of involvement in corruption cases. Recently, a source familiar with the election process said the vote was to be delayed due to difficulties of organising the logistics in time and opposition on the street.

“There won’t be elections on July 4,” he said, asking not to be named.

The deadline for would-be presidential candidates to collect and submit 60,000 signatures is May 25.

The source said the vote could be delayed until the end of the year, with names in the air to run the transition including conservative former minister Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi and technocrat and former prime minister Ahmed Benbitour.

Demonstrators in the central Tinerkouk area have been blocking access to an oil company since mid-April, demanding jobs in the industry. The ongoing rally has largely paralysed work at the site, according to the official APS news agency, prompting police to move in and disperse it on Tuesday.

Demonstrators blocked access to the local government offices, setting fire to the buildings and looting them when the police intervened, according to APS.

Saleh said on Wednesday he had no political ambitions in response to democracy activists who say that he intends to copy the authoritarian model of Egypt.

“Everybody should know that we have no political ambitions,” Salah told state television.

In Algeria, analysts said the army fears the crisis will continue at a time of worsening disorder in neighbouring Libya, where there is factional fighting for control of the capital Tripoli.

Salah also said a fight against corruption and cronyism, among protesters’ main grievances, would continue and that he disagreed with some officials who said this was not a priority.

Agencies