Wed, 30 Sep 2020

Algeria: a year rocked by anti-regime protests

12 Dec 2019, 22:11 GMT+10

Algeria has been in political turmoil for most of the year, with mass protests against the government continuing even after the resignation of long-time president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April.

After almost 10 months of political turmoil, Algeria on Thursday holds a presidential vote bitterly opposed by the protest movement.

Here is a timeline:

'No' to Bouteflika

On February 22, thousands of people demonstrate in Algiers and other cities against Bouteflika's candidacy in a presidential election set for April.

The ailing 82-year-old, who has already been in power for 20 years, has rarely been seen in public since a 2013 stroke. Protesters chant: "No fifth term!"

Big rallies are held again on the next two Fridays.

After two weeks of medical treatment in Switzerland, Bouteflika returns to Algeria on March 10. The next day he postpones the April election.

Amid fears he will attempt to cling to power, there are massive protests again the following Friday, March 15.

On March 26, army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah - once considered loyal to Bouteflika - demands the president step down or be declared medically unfit to rule.

Algerian protesters rally to reiterate their opposition to a presidential election, in Algiers. (AFP).

Bouteflika quits

On April 2, after the army chief calls for impeachment, Bouteflika hands in his resignation.

While crowds cheer his departure, they demand more changes.

Protesters again fill the streets on April 5, calling for other regime stalwarts to step down, including upper house speaker Abdelkader Bensalah.

Bensalah is on April 9 named interim president. Opposition parties refuse to confirm his nomination.

Bensalah's office calls a presidential election for July 4.

Another official targeted by protesters, constitutional council chief Tayeb Belaiz, quits on April 16.

July vote scrapped

In the following weeks, corruption investigations are launched against regime insiders.

Politicians and businessmen close to Bouteflika are arrested.

Army chief Salah, the key powerbroker since Bouteflika's departure, calls for dialogue, insisting on May 22 he has no political ambitions himself.

The constitutional council on June 2 scraps the July presidential election for lack of acceptable candidates.

Call for dialogue

On July 3, the interim president proposes a national dialogue to prepare for elections, without the involvement of the state or the military.

His mandate expires on July 9 but he stays in office with the army's backing.

On September 15, Bensalah sets the election for December 12.

Three days later, the military toughens its line against protests, ordering police to block demonstrators from outside the capital entering Algiers.

Algerian speaker of the upper house of parliament, Abdelkader Bensalah (Ryad Kramdi/AFP).

Regime figures jailed

On September 25, a military court sentences Bouteflika's brother, Said, and three co-defendants to 15 years in prison for "undermining the authority of the army" and "conspiring" against the state.

Said Bouteflika was widely seen as the real power behind the presidency after his brother's stroke.

On December 10, a court sentences former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, who were both close to the ousted president, to 15 years and 12 years respectively in corruption trials.

ALSO READ | Algerians flood streets to protest against December polls

But even those verdicts do little to win over the protesters, who see the trials as little more than a high-level purge in a struggle between still-powerful regime insiders.

Back to the polls

After another day of anti-regime protests, Algeria holds a presidential vote bitterly opposed by demonstrators who sees it as a regime ploy to cling on to power.

Five candidates are in the running, but all are widely reggarded as "children of the regime".

Abstention is expected to be high as protesters keep pushing for the total dismantling of the system that has ruled Algeria since independence from France in 1962.

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