40th consecutive Friday of anti-ruling elite protests in Algeria

Thousands of Algerians keep up pressure on ruling elite, demand presidential election cancelled.

ALGIERS – Thousands of Algerians took to the capital’s streets and other towns and cities on the 40th consecutive Friday to protest against the North African nation’s ruling elite and ahead of a presidential election they demand to be cancelled.

Chanting “no election on December 12" and “nothing will stop us" as a police helicopter flew overhead, the demonstrators in Algiers continued their demands for an end to Algeria's post-colonial political system — including the departure of acting leader Abdelkader Bensalah and powerful army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah.

Protest organisers estimated that tens of thousands were participating in Friday's demonstration in Algiers.

The protesters reject the planned election, saying it cannot be free or fair while the military and senior officials from the old guard of the ruling hierarchy retain power.

Though former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was kicked out of power in April by the demonstrators, his legacy remains: The protesters don't trust those currently in power to ensure democratic elections because of their past links with the ailing, 82-year-old ex-leader.

The demonstrations on Friday formed a ballooning sea of placards and banners that stretched some 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) down a well-known artery, rue Didouche.

Demonstrators carry national flags during a protest rejecting the December presidential election in Algiers
Thousands of protesters reject the December presidential election in Algiers

Coming from all sections of society, including students, doctors and teachers, the protesters who have turned out in their thousands since February are united behind a common goal for fresh national elections and brand-new leadership. They also reject a vote organized by the current leadership, whom they perceive as out of touch and corrupted relics of the past.

Two former prime ministers, Ali Benflis and Abdelmadjid Tebboune, are considered the favourites among the five candidates running in the election.

Authorities arrested more than 80 people during a night-time protest in the Algerian capital, a prisoners' rights group said Friday.

The CNLD prisoners' rights committee said most of those detained in Thursday night's protest were taken to police stations in the suburbs of Algiers.

Hundreds of Algerians had turned out Thursday for the second night in a row to voice their anger over the presidential poll.

They did so hours after an examining magistrate charged 29 people arrested during a similar protest on Wednesday night with holding an "unauthorised gathering".

Dozens of people have been arrested since the election campaign began last Sunday. Four were sentenced on Monday to 18 months in jail and 14 received suspended terms for disrupting a meeting.

The European Parliament will discuss the political situation in Algeria next week.