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Protesters in Algeria March in Favor of December Elections

Protesters in Algeria March in Favor of December Elections

Saturday, 30 November, 2019 - 18:45
Pro-government supporters, wearing military outfits, chant slogans during a rally rejecting foreign interference and in favor of a coming presidential election in Algiers, Algeria November 30, 2019. (Reuters)

Algerians in support of the government have taken to the streets in demonstrations in several cities across the North African country to show their support for next month’s elections.

The march was organized by the UGTA trades union group which is close to the National Liberation Front of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who quit in April under pressure from the street.

The UGTA supported Bouteflika during his 20 years at the helm in Algeria.

Pro-regime "spontaneous" rallies have been held across the country as the December 12 polling day nears, but Saturday's was the first staged by a group close to the regime and the largest pro-government demonstrations of their kind seen in Algeria. They are, however, much smaller than the Friday protests.

"No to foreign interference!" read one placard at Saturday’s rally, in response to a European Parliament resolution on Thursday.

The resolution condemned "the arbitrary and unlawful arrest and detainment of, attacks on and intimidations of journalists, trade unionists, lawyers, students, human rights defenders and civil society and all peaceful protesters" in Algeria.

Algiers denounced what it called "flagrant interference in its internal affairs" and a "disregard" for its institutions.

Marchers on Saturday also voiced their support for the military, whose chief General Ahmed Gaed Salah has been Algeria's de facto ruler since Bouteflika stepped down.

"The December 12 vote will go ahead," demonstrators chanted as they also railed against former colonial power France, telling its "children" -- anti-vote protesters -- to "get out". “Vote for Algeria” and “We are united forever” read other banners.

There were also chants of “The people and the army are brothers”, and “We are with Gaed”, a reference to the army chief, who has been singled out during the mass protests, with many slogans calling for him to follow Bouteflika and step aside.

Despite protests being banned in the capital since 2001, police escorted the marchers and arrested several onlookers who shouted anti-poll slogans or insulted demonstrators.

The authorities have tolerated massive weekly demonstrations that been kept up despite Bouteflika's departure, but they have also begun to disperse protesters in Algiers in recent weeks.

Anti-vote protesters fear the poll will cement in power politicians close to Bouteflika. The five candidates standing all either supported him or took part in his government.

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