ALGIERS (Reuters) – Algerian protesters vowed to keep up street rallies against the country’s ruling elite on Friday, rejecting a December presidential election with banners reading “we will not shut up”, “we are not ready to stop” and “I will not vote”.
The weekly demonstrations have dropped in size from hundreds of thousands in the Spring to tens of thousands now, but are still a challenge for the authorities ahead of the Dec. 12 vote.
With more police at protests and by detaining opposition figures, the authorities have piled pressure on demonstrators in recent weeks. At the same time, they have also acceded to some of their demands by detaining senior officials on corruption charges.
The election authority this week urged protesters to help supervise the vote to ensure transparency, in the most recent of several attempts to calm demonstrators.
The leaderless, nebulous protest movement has rejected the vote as long as some of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s allies are still in power, saying it could not be free or fair.
Bouteflika stepped down in April under mass protests that broke out in February, demanding the removal of the ruling elite and the prosecution of people suspected of involvement in corruption.
The army, the main player in Algeria’s politics since Bouteflika’s resignation, has repeatedly said the election would be the only way out of the crisis, promising the election authority is empowered to ensure a free vote.
“The election is a decisive and historical event,” said the head of the election authority Mohamed Charfi this week.
“The Hirak (protest movement) youth are invited to participate in the supervision of polling stations, monitoring operations and counting process”.
His announcement followed the arrest of some opposition figures who have backed the protests in a move seen by opponents as anti-democratic.
More than 139 figures, most of them are not well-known, have said they would run in the election, promising to break with Bouteflika’s system.
(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed, Editing by William Maclean)