Hundreds of people staged a protest in the eastern Algerian city of Khenchela after the municipal chief barred businessman and opposition presidential candidate, Rachid Nekkaz, from organizing a rally for his supporters.
In a precedent, the angry demonstrators tore down posters of President Abdulaziz Bouteflika, who recently announced his run for a fifth term in office, a move that has drawn condemnation among the opposition.
Local reporters told Asharq Al-Awsat that municipal chief Kamel Hachouf had recruited municipal workers in order to prevent Nekkaz from meeting with his supporters in the town square.
“I will not allow any candidate to enter my town. I will not allow anyone to oppose the president,” he was quoted as saying, while voicing his complete support to Bouteflika.
This prompted a backlash with residents insisting on meeting with Nekkaz and many rallied around him, vowing to vote for him during the April 18 polls.
The spontaneous rally moved to the municipal headquarters where the protesters tore down large posters of Bouteflika that were posted on the building in Hachouf’s open support of the president. The municipal chief was forced to make a quick exit from the vicinity for his safety.
On Saturday, residents of the eastern town of Kherrata had staged a demonstration to protest against Bouteflika’s run for reelection. They rallied against figures in the president’s entourage “who had submitted his candidacy without his knowledge.”
Born and raised in France, Nekkaz ran for president in 2014, but he was disqualified from the race after he “lost” the documents with the people’s signatures of support when he was on his way to submit his official candidacy. Observers at the time questioned the incident, saying it was deliberate in order to eliminate him from the race.
The electoral law in the country requires would-be presidential candidates to gather the signatures of 60,000 citizens in order to be eligible to run in the polls.
Nekkaz gained fame after pledging last year to pay the fines of violators of Denmark’s niqab ban.
Separately, H'mida Ayachi, the former media officer at opposition candidate Ali Ghediri’s electoral campaign, said that the retired general has refused to take part in an opposition meeting set for Wednesday aimed at agreeing on a single candidate for the elections.
Ghediri has chosen to boycott the meeting that is being sponsored by Sheikh Abdallah Djaballah, head of the Islamist Justice and Development Front, Ayachi told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Ghediri will explain the reasons for his decision later on Wednesday, he revealed.