Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 7 December 2019

Algeria approves 23 presidential election candidates amid protests

It comes months after former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned following mass protests

Former Algerian prime minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune leaves after filing his candidacy file for upcoming presidential elections at the Independent National Electoral Authority, in Algiers, Algeria. EPA
Former Algerian prime minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune leaves after filing his candidacy file for upcoming presidential elections at the Independent National Electoral Authority, in Algiers, Algeria. EPA

Algeria’s electoral authority says 23 candidates have qualified for the North African country’s controversial presidential vote on December 12.

The election comes months after former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned in the spring after months of mass protests. Since then, power in Algeria has been concentrated around army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah.

Candidates must have the backing of at least 50,000 people and submissions ended at midnight on Saturday.

The candidates include former ministers or political party leaders, such as former Prime Minister Ali Benflis. Many who qualified have already participated in previous presidential elections.

Former popular television host Slimane Bakhlili also qualified.

Activists on social media have called for protesters to reject the vote, fearing that it will not be transparent or fair.

Mr Bouteflika's decision to run for a fifth term sparked a wave of peaceful demonstrations on February 22. He resigned in April but protesters continue to demand an overhaul of the entire political establishment.

The opposition rejects elections under the current establishment, called for December 12.

On Friday, protesters flooded the streets of the capital Algiers to demand the overhaul of the political establishment and reject the army-backed calls for the presidential polls.

Initially polls had been planned for July 4 but they were postponed due to a lack of viable candidates, plunging the country into a constitutional crisis.

Activists are demanding sweeping reforms in the oil-rich country before any vote takes place, and say Mr Bouteflika-era figures still in power must not use the presidential poll as an opportunity to appoint his successor.

Authorities have rejected these demands.

It has demanded transitional institutions to replace Algeria's entire system of government, in place since independence from France in 1962.

Having now entered its ninth month, the mass protest movement "is growing as we near the presidential election," said Said Salhi of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights.

Updated: October 27, 2019 10:25 AM

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