Algeria kicks off presidential campaign, 5 candidates to run

A supporter of presidential candidate Abdelkader Bengrina poses with his poster at the start of his campaign in Algiers, Algeria November 17, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 17 November 2019

Algeria kicks off presidential campaign, 5 candidates to run

  • In some neighborhoods of Algiers, protesters have hung black trash bags on billboards featuring the candidates’ portraits

ALGIERS: Algeria’s presidential campaign officially kicked off Sunday with five candidates vying to replace the country’s longtime leader, who was pushed out in April amid sustained protests.
Two former prime ministers, Ali Benflis and Abdelmadjid Tebboune, are among those running in the Dec. 12 election to succeed former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Big crowds took to the streets Friday for a 39th consecutive week to demand an end to Algeria’s post-colonial political system. Protesters say they don’t trust those currently in power to ensure democratic elections, citing their past links to Bouteflika.
Benflis and Tebboune are considered the favorites of the vote.
The other candidates are: former tourism minister and moderate Islamist Abdelkader Bengrina; former culture minister and current interim secretary of the RND party that was in the governing coalition, Azzedine Mihoubi; and Belaid Abdelaziz, who heads the small El Moustakbel (Future) party that’s close to the FLN, both of which remain part of the ruling coalition.
In some neighborhoods of Algiers, protesters have hung black trash bags on billboards featuring the candidates’ portraits, often sprayed with the words “election of shame” and “traitors.”
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.”
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, repeatedly vowed that “all security conditions will be met so that Algerians can fulfill their electoral duty in full serenity.”


Amnesty raises to 304 number of Iranians killed in protests

Updated 6 min 32 sec ago

Amnesty raises to 304 number of Iranians killed in protests

  • The protests were sparked by a sharp rise in gasoline prices
  • Iran acknowledged that the security forces have shot and killed protesters

DUBAI: Amnesty International said Monday that at least 304 people were killed in last month’s anti-government protests in Iran, a significantly higher number than what the rights group had reported previously.
The protests, which lasted about four days in several cities and towns in Iran in November, were sparked by a sharp rise in gasoline prices. During the violence and in the days that followed, Iranian authorities blocked access to the Internet.
Amnesty said that Iranian security forces opened fire on unarmed protesters, killing scores. Iranian authorities subsequently arrested thousands of protesters as well as journalists, human rights defenders and students in a sweeping crackdown to prevent them from speaking up about the protests, the London-based watchdog said.
Tehran has yet to release any statistics about the scale of the unrest, though two weeks ago the government acknowledged that the security forces shot and killed protesters. Iranian state media referred to some of those shot and killed as “rioters”.
Amnesty said earlier this month that at least 208 were killed in the Nov. 15-18 protests. It did not provide an explanation for the new and higher death toll, reiterating that it had spoken to dozens of people inside the country and had compiled credible reports.
The majority of the deaths recorded by Amnesty were the result of gunshots to the head, heart and other vital organs. Among those killed, according to Amnesty, was a 15-year-old boy in the city of Shiraz who was shot as he passed by a protest on his way from school.
The rights group had noted how during the protests, Iran shut down Internet access, blocking those inside the country from sharing videos and limiting knowledge about the full scale of the turmoil.
The protests were rooted in widespread economic discontent that has gripped the country since President Trump imposed crushing sanctions after withdrawing America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
Iran’s national currency, the rial, has sharply plunged from the time of the 2015 nuclear accord while daily staples have risen in price.
Despite the hike in prices, gasoline in Iran remains among the cheapest in the world.