Algeria protest leaders hike pressure for change

Orient Net 2019-03-14 07:33:00

expressive image

Algerian protesters have chosen prominent reformist lawyers and rights activists to spearhead popular pressure against what they see as an authoritarian and out of touch ruling system, several activists told Reuters.

Opposition activists have dismissed a decision by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika not to stand for a fifth term as at a half-measure aimed at placating popular anger and doing nothing to address decades of economic and social malaise.

Algeria’s government on Wednesday (March 13) declared itself ready for talks with the protesters, saying it sought a ruling system based on “the will of the people”.

But according to one prominent protest leader, talks are not on the agenda, at least for now.

“We refuse to negotiate transition with the regime. No negotiations,” Fodil Boumala, one of the leaders of the demonstrators, told Reuters on Wednesday.

“The balance of power is on our side, let’s strengthen our movement. We need to maintain pressure for up to three weeks.”

While no formal vote was taken, activists said the four figures were among a group of prominent Algerians who were taking a leading role in the protest movement and were trusted by those who took to the streets.

Bouteflika, 82, bowed to weeks of mass demonstrations against his 20-year-long rule on Monday and promised a transition to a new leadership. But he postponed an election set for April, meaning he will likely remain in power for some time.

Protesters saw the move as a ruse by officials with a track record of manipulating opposition groups to keep the pillars of the country’s military-dominated power structure intact.