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Algeria Army Chief Threatens to ‘Confront’ Protesters Obstructing Elections

Algeria Army Chief Threatens to ‘Confront’ Protesters Obstructing Elections

Tuesday, 10 December, 2019 - 09:00
Demonstrators take part in a protest to demand for the presidential election scheduled for Thursday in Algiers, Algeria, December 6, 2019. (Reuters)

Algeria’s army chief has threatened to “confront” demonstrators who are opposed to holding the presidential elections, scheduled for Thursday, and are trying to prevent people from voting.

Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gaid Salah said he ordered all military officials, soldiers and security forces to be at their utmost vigilance and preparedness and secure the elections to allow all citizens to exercise their right and electoral duty in a calm atmosphere.

Speaking during a visit to the gendarmerie headquarters in the capital, Algiers, he stressed that the army has always warned against conspiracies plotted against Algeria and its people.

He was implicitly referring to scuffles between pro- and anti-elections Algerian immigrants in France when voting for expatriates in the presidential elections kicked off on Saturday.

The defense ministry published Salah’s speech, in which he said the army will use the force of law to confront whoever tries to target and disrupt Thursday’s elections.

“Gendarmerie forces, military units and all security services are required to take all measures necessary to secure poling stations across the country,” he noted.

Algerians are being asked to vote in a presidential election bitterly opposed by the country's nine-month-old protest movement, which sees it as a regime ploy to cling to power.

While no opinion polls have been published, observers expect high levels of abstention, in keeping with previous elections in a political system seen by voters as rigid and unaccountable.

Aging president Abdelaziz Bouteflika's February announcement that he would seek a fifth term in office sparked an unprecedented mass protest movement that by April forced him to resign.

Protesters continued with their weekly rallies, demanding the total dismantling of the military-dominated system that has ruled Algeria since independence in 1962.

The military high command, which has long wielded power from behind the scenes, was forced to take a front-line role in government -- but rejected the demands of protesters and civil society for sweeping reforms.

A caretaker government, appointed by Bouteflika two days before he quit, remains in post, led by his longtime ally Noureddine Bedoui.

The five candidates in the poll have run low-key campaigns.

All are considered "children of the system", having either supported Bouteflika or participated in his government -- two as ministers and two as prime ministers.

Protesters accuse them of protecting the regime by standing for election.

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