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Algeria: Cautious Calm Ahead of Nationwide Marches

Algeria: Cautious Calm Ahead of Nationwide Marches

Thursday, 21 February, 2019 - 10:15
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika during a swearing-in ceremony in Algiers April 28, 2014. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina/Files
Algiers - Asharq Al-Awsat
Algeria is witnessing cautious calm ahead of popular rallies due to be held after Friday prayers.

A movement launched an initiative to organize popular rallies in the capital and various other states to protest President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s candidacy for a new presidential term, after having stayed 20 years in power.

The Mouwatana or the Citizens’ Democracy movement – which comprises a group of opposition political activists – has called for protests to be held on Friday.

At the same time, many opposition parties announced their withdrawal from the presidential race scheduled for April 18, calling on Algerians to boycott the polls “which will not bring anything new except the appointment of the incumbent president for a fifth term.”

The movement aims to “enact real change and gather citizens in protest for introducing change into the system of governance and to prepare necessary conditions needed for peaceful means of a transitional period which preserves the country and the people.”

“Upcoming presidential elections will be a sorting tool to reshape the new balance of power and make a significant impact on the future of the country,” said the authors of the initiative, mainly top Algerian writers, lawyers and political activists.

A few days ago, crowds of Algerian populists took to street, calling on Bouteflika to go back on his decision to run for the presidency. Residents of the state of Bejaia and Khorata (300 km east of the capital) and the state of Bordj Bou Arreridj (200 Km from Algiers) marched in peaceful rallies raising different slogans, with other marches taking place in Tizi Ouzou and other Algerian states.

Demonstrators hoisted black flags, expressing their utmost rejection of the country’s political situation, while thousands of police and security officers were deployed in the streets and neighborhoods of the capital, especially after news emerged about plans for a “million-people march.”

According to local sources, the organizers of the demonstrations belong to local cultural and social organizations, with the absence of partisan members and human rights activists, although the region is a stronghold of opposition parties and large human rights organizations such as the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights.

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