Algerians protest election plan, mark independence war

It was the 37th such gathering since their pro-democracy movement began in February.

Algerian protesters chant slogans during the 37th consecutive Friday anti-government demonstrations in the capital Algiers, on November 1, 2019
Rallies have taken place in Algiers every Friday since Algeria's pro-democracy movement erupted in February [AFP]

Police are struggling to contain thousands of Algerian demonstrators surging through the streets of the capital, Algiers, to protest against plans for next month’s presidential election and celebrate the 65th anniversary of the start of the country’s war for independence from France.

Waving Algerian and banned Berber flags during Friday’s rally, demonstrators urged each other to remain peaceful as police tried to push them off sidewalks or clear them out of a central square.

It was the 37th such gathering since their pro-democracy movement began in February, and coincided with the anniversary of Algeria’s war for liberation from French rule, which began on November 1, 1954.

Thousands of people came from other towns to join the protest in Algiers, some demonstrating peacefully in the streets overnight. In their homes, many residents banged on pots and pans to show support.

The visitors then rested with friends or family, or in their cars, and reconvened on Friday morning to march through the capital.

The protesters’ anger focuses on the December 12 presidential election, to replace longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

He was forced to step down in April after weeks of nationwide protests and amid pressure from the country’s powerful military over his bid for a fifth term in office.

Protesters are demanding sweeping reforms in the oil-rich country before any fresh vote takes place, and say Bouteflika-era figures still in power must not use the presidential poll as an opportunity to appoint his successor.

“Dump the generals in the garbage!” shouted some demonstrators, referring notably to powerful army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah. Gaid Salah helped push out the previous president, but demonstrators increasingly see him as part of the system they want to change.

The war anniversary drew larger-than-usual crowds to Friday’s protest, where people repeatedly chanted “independence! independence!” One banner read: “Algeria was freed, and the people now struggle to free themselves.”

Algeria’s conflict with France lasted for six years and left scars on the countries’ relations that remain to this day.

Source: News Agencies