Students across Algeria have condemned the upcoming Presidential elections as being rigged, warning that all five candidates belong to the elite class that are accused of having ruled Algeria behind the scenes for decades.
As Algerians prepare to go to the polls on December 12th, protests are continuing on the streets across Algeria at what demonstrators are labelling “rigged” elections. The protest movement is accusing the elections of being made up of candidates that are representative of, or otherwise affiliated with, the government of former President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, noting that under such conditions, the reforms demanded by the movement cannot materialise.
Algerian students have been at the forefront of the protests against the elections, demanding the setting up of a “civil state, not a military one”. Despite this, however, Algeria’s caretaker government, led by its de-facto leader, Deputy Minister of Defence, Ahmed Gaid Salah, announced that the elections will go ahead despite the protests.
Salah noted that the elections are a way to overcome the current political deadlock Algeria is experiencing, warning that prolonged political instability may lead to increased involvement of foreign powers. In a recent speech, he called on Algerians to take to the ballot box in numbers.
Salah’s calls appear to have fallen on deaf ears. The majority of Algerians involved in the protest movement indicated that they may simply not vote if the elections go ahead in their current state. Although this would give the presidency to the supporters of the five candidates running for the elections, a low voter turnout would also severely limit the legitimacy of the elections.
However, there are signs of mobilisation among those who support the five candidates or otherwise against the protest movement. In particular, counter-protests have been held around Algeria condemning a recent statement made by the European Union that the Algerian People’s National Army have arrested hundreds of peaceful protesters on charges of “undermining national unity and territorial integrity”, “inciting assembly” and “weakening the morale of the army”.
The EU also criticised the arrest of a number of activists who raised the Amazigh flag. A statement from the army cited these counter-protests as evidence for the mandate of the election.
For the protest movement, however, these justifications are not enough. Many of them feel that the continued involvement of politicians affiliated with the Bouteflika government will merely entrench the power of the elites that are accused of having ruled Algeria through the former President.