Just ten days before the presidential elections in Algeria, members of the former regime under Abduleziz Bouteflika are being put on trial.
Only a few months ago, the brother of Abduleziz Bouteflika, Sa’eed Bouteflika, was sentenced to prison, along with Mohamed Mediene dit Toufik, the head of the Algerian secret services for the past 25 years, his successor Bachir Athmane Tartag, head of the country’s Labour Party, Louisa Hanoune, all arrested in early May, and Tayeb Belaiz, ex-President of the Constitutional Council. They were sentenced for their corrupt links with the former President as the transition government sought to gain legitimacy for tackling corruption remaining from the Bouteflika era.
Some observers believe that the trials have been launched at a strategic time just ten days before the presidential elections so as to motivate Algerians to come out and vote.
Nevertheless, protesters have not been convinced by the transition government’s actions and have insisted that that the quasi-military regime in place is seeking to preserve its authority in the political domain. This perception has been reinforced following the approval of 5 candidates to run for the presidential elections. All the candidates are known to have links with the former regime, having occupied positions under the presidency of Bouteflika and/or have been members of the National Liberation Front (FLN).
The trials have come at a time when Algeria has seen one of the very few instances of public support for the presidential elections. The pro-election demonstration was organised by the General Union of Algerian Workers, which has links to the FLN. Demonstrators expressed their opposition to alleged “foreign interference”.
Nevertheless, anti-election protests, which have generally come under the umbrella called “Hirak” (Movement), have been much more prevalent in the country over the past few weeks. Several individuals have been taken off the streets and detained. Some are known to be activists focusing on political, legal, social and ethnic issues in Algeria. Others have simply been detained for being part of the masses on the streets.