Algeria: six months of anti-regime protests

 

 

Algeria has been rocked by six months of protests demanding an overhaul of the ruling regime that have shown no let-up despite the April resignation of long-time president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Here is a timeline:

‘No’ to Bouteflika 

On February 22, 2019, thousands of people demonstrate in Algiers and several other cities in the first major protests against Bouteflika’s candidacy in a presidential election set for April.

The ailing 82-year-old has already been in power for 20 years and is rarely seen in public after a 2013 stroke.

Thousands chant: “No fifth mandate!”

Big rallies are held again on the next two Fridays.

Bouteflika returns to Algeria on March 10 after two weeks of medical treatment in Switzerland. 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.

Army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah — considered loyal to Bouteflika — on March 26 demands the president step down or be declared medically unfit to rule.

Bouteflika quits

On April 2, Bouteflika resigns, shortly after the army chief calls for his impeachment

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 too.

They include the speaker of parliament’s upper house, Abdelkader Bensalah, who is on April 9 named interim president.

Opposition parties refuse to confirm his nomination.

Bensalah’s office calls the presidential election for July 4.

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

July vote scrapped

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

Politicians and businessmen close to Bouteflika — including two former prime ministers — are arrested.

Army chief Salah, who has emerged as the key powerbroker since Bouteflika’s departure, rejects protesters’ demands and calls for dialogue, insisting on May 22 he has no political ambitions himself.

The constitutional council announces on June 2 that the July presidential election cannot go ahead because it has rejected the only two candidates, both of them little known.

There are more protests, with calls for the army chief to resign too.

On June 19, Salah bans the use of the Berber minority’s flag at demonstrations.

Call for dialogue

On July 3 the interim president proposes a “neutral” national dialogue, without the involvement of the state or the military.

His mandate expires on July 9. The next day army chief Salah reaffirms the army’s support for him.

Bensalah charges a “dialogue and mediation” body on July 25 with carrying out consultations to prepare for a presidential election.

Protesters call on August 2 for “civil disobedience” for the first time.

On August 8, the army chief says the protest movement’s basic demands have been met, saying that the objective is now the presidential election.

On the 16, demonstrators turn out in the capital in large numbers for the 26th consecutive Friday of protests.

© Agence France-Presse

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