Algerians mark 40th week of anti-government protests
ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Thousands of Algerians took to the streets on the 40th consecutive Friday of increasingly vociferous protests against the North African nation’s leadership, expressing fears that next month’s presidential poll will be rigged.
Chanting “No election on Dec. 12!” and “Nothing will stop us!” as a police helicopter flew overhead, the demonstrators in Algiers continued their demands for an end to Algeria’s post-colonial political system. Those demands include the departure of acting leader Abdelkader Bensalah and powerful army chief Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah.
Protest organizers estimated that tens of thousands participated in Friday’s demonstration in the Algerian capital.
Although long-time former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was ousted from power in April by the demonstrators, his legacy spawned a deep distrust of government that remains. The protesters don’t believe that those currently in power will ensure a democratic election because of their past links to the ailing, 82-year-old former leader.
The demonstrations on Friday formed a ballooning sea of placards and banners that stretched 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) down a key street in Algiers.
Thousands of protesters also took to the streets in the country’s big cities, including Oran, Constantine and Setif.
Coming from all sections of society — including students, doctors and teachers — the protesters who have turned out in the thousands since February are united behind a common goal of holding transparent national elections to install a brand-new leadership. They reject the vote being organized by the current leadership, whom they perceive as corrupt.
Two former prime ministers, Ali Benflis and Abdelmadjid Tebboune, are considered the favorites among the five candidates allowed to run in the Dec. 12 presidential election.
The European Parliament will discuss the political situation in Algeria next week.
Adamson reported from Paris. Claire Parker in Paris contributed.