Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 9 December 2019

Algeria elections: campaigning begins amid ongoing protests

Two former prime ministers, Ali Benflis and Abdelmadjid Tebboune, are among the favourites to become the next president, with protesters still demanding political reform

Supporters of presidential candidate Abdelkader Bengrina carry his poster at the start of his campaign in Algiers, Algeria. Reuters
Supporters of presidential candidate Abdelkader Bengrina carry his poster at the start of his campaign in Algiers, Algeria. Reuters

Campaigning for Algeria's presidential election began on Sunday, with five candidates in the running and amid months-long protests that demand political reform.

Two former prime ministers, Ali Benflis and Abdelmadjid Tebboune, are among those hoping to succeed former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who resigned in April under pressure from demonstrators, in the December 12 elections.

On Friday, big crowds took to the streets Friday for a 39th consecutive week to demand an end to Algeria’s postcolonial political system and renew their opposition to a presidential election they say will keep the political elite, who have already been rejected by the people, in power.

Protesters are opposed to any Bouteflika-era figures taking part in the election and have been holding demonstrations, on Fridays and Tuesdays, since February.

Mr Benflis, 75, and Mr Tebboune, 73, are considered the favourites of the vote, but all five candidates have links to Mr Bouteflika.

The others are Azzedine Mihoubi, head of the Democratic National Rally party (RND), the main ally of Mr Bouteflika's party, Islamist ex-tourism minister Abdelkader Bengrina, whose party backed Mr Bouteflika, and Abdelaziz Belaid, a member of a youth organisation that also supported the former president.

In some neighbourhoods of Algiers, protesters have hung black trash bags on billboards featuring the candidates’ portraits, often sprayed with the words “election of shame” and “traitors”.

Mr Benflis said this week that “this election is not held in ideal conditions, I know that, but I consider it is the shorter and less risky path to get Algeria out of the political impasse caused by the former regime”.

Mr Tebboune acknowledged the “special climate” of the electoral process. Speaking on television earlier this month, he justified his candidacy by saying he wanted to “put Algeria back on good tracks”.

“Some Algerians are against the election, but I know a majority are for it,” he said.

Army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah, who has emerged as the country’s authority figure and led the push for the elections to be held, repeatedly vowed that “all security conditions will be met so that Algerians can fulfil their electoral duty in full serenity”.

Updated: November 18, 2019 01:12 PM

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