Eggs, protests and apathy mar Algeria’s presidential campaign
Algiers, Algeria - Algeria’s presidential campaign is in trouble. Candidates are struggling to fill rally venues, campaign managers have quit, voters have pelted campaign headquarters with tomatoes and eggs, and the country’s 9 month old prodemocracy movement calls the whole thing a sham.
The five candidates seeking to replace President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in the December 12 election have failed to captivate a disillusioned public. Bouteflika was pushed out in April after 20 years in power amid an exceptional, peaceful protest movement, and now demonstrators want a wholesale change of political leadership.
Instead, the election is managed by the long-serving power structure of this oil- and gas-rich country with a strategic role in the Mediterranean region. Instead of new faces, two of the candidates are former prime ministers and one is a loyalist of Algeria’s influential army chief.
The Hirak protest movement held their 41st weekly demonstrations on Friday, denouncing the presidential election. But for the first time, thousands of progovernment supporters held their own rally on Saturday.
The candidates have tried to convince voters that taking part in the election is the only alternative to chaos, an allusion to the civil war that ravaged Algeria in the 1990s. But that argument falls flat among the protesters with demonstrators calming each other down and ensuring that no one provokes police.
People gather on the 41st consecutive Friday demonstration against the government in Algiers on Friday