Algerian protest leaders have vowed to take to the streets for the fourth Friday in succession as the country’s nascent democracy movement begins its search for representatives who can unite hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in advance of a national conference and elections. The ailing president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, on Monday withdrew his bid for a fifth term in office and postponed planned April elections to allow for consultation on reforms “for a new generation”. The move was condemned by civil society groups, who said it was intended to “trick and divide the popular movement”.
Habib Brahmia, from the Jil Jadid political party and the protest movement Mouwatana, said: “On Friday, we will all be in the streets to overthrow this system and its pawns.” Protesters have previously expressed pride in the movement’s leaderless nature, which was born of anonymous social media pages and seen in part as a rebuke to the official opposition, which is viewed as having been co-opted by the regime.
But after protesters succeeded in cancelling Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term, the movement is working to bring together union leaders, protesters and civil society leaders around potential candidates who can voice their demands as they push to overthrow the government.
“This is a broad and spontaneous movement – it’s not really possible to put forward a single figure who can represent all parts of it,” said Soufiane Djilali, a Mouwatana coordinator. “This is also a movement that won’t accept anyone without a vote or due process. No one has right to say the movement belongs to them.” Djilali suggested the opposition should instead hold a conference to nominate three or four figures who could act as the spokespeople for the opposition with an eye to the election. He declined to say whether he would put himself forward.
A group of developers launched 22Fevrier2019.org, a website where users can “upvote” political propositions by tapping on a heart or hit the thumbs-down button for those they dislike.mThe top suggestion reads: “I nominate Mustapha Bouchachi to oversee the transition period and organise the next elections.” A prominent human rights lawyer, Bouchachi told local site Tout Sur Algérie he was concerned that Bouteflika cancelling the election is a move for the regime to waste time and remain in power. “I fear they will destroy the country,” he said.
Algeria’s new prime minister Noureddine Bedoui and his deputy, Ramtane Lamamra, held a press conference intended to reassure Algerians that the political elite would listen to their demands. “We will take into account the messages of the protesters during the formation of the government,” said Bedoui, as he offered a new “technocratic” government in the coming weeks to usher in the national conference. Bedoui promised a short transition and independent commission to oversee the next election, an offer unlikely to satisfy protesters. “We hope that all will participate,” he said.
(The Guardian, 15th March 2019) n
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