Saturday, 22 January 2022

Boycott rallies rock Algeria day before presidential poll


ALGIERS: Algerian police violently dispersed an anti-vote protest in Algiers, on the eve of a widely unpopular presidential election.

As a helicopter flew overhead, more than 200 anti-riot police charged protesters assembled outside the capital’s central post office, injuring at least eight people, an AFP journalist said.

About 30 protesters were arrested, the journalist said.

Several hundred protesters later returned to the post office – which has been the rallying point of the “Hirak” anti-government protest movement since February – prompting further arrests.

Since the protest movement forced the resignation of ageing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April, weekly demonstrations across the country have continued to demand sweeping reforms ahead of elections.

Meriem, a 62-year-old Algiers resident, marched with her daughter and daughter-in-law brandishing red cards to oppose an election perceived as a regime ploy to cling to power.

“I’m marching to say no to the vote, no to the Bouteflika system without Bouteflika,” she said.

For her daughter Fatma Zohra, “this is our last chance before the passing of power with this vote”.

The five approved candidates in Thursday’s election all either supported Bouteflika or participated in his government, including two as prime ministers.

Demonstrators also chanted slogans against powerful army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah, who has emerged as Algeria’s de facto strongman since Bouteflika’s resignation and is a champion of Thursday’s election.

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