Algerian protesters demand Thursday’s election be canceled

A demonstrator holds a sign reading "No vote", during a protest rejecting the presidential election in Algiers, Algeria December 11, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 11 December 2019

Algerian protesters demand Thursday’s election be canceled

  • Shadowy leaders seek to outflank protest movement
  • Protesters see vote as a charade to keep status quo

ALGIERS: A big crowd of protesters marched through central Algiers on Wednesday to demand Thursday’s presidential election be canceled, chanting that they would not vote in a poll they regard as a charade.
They chanted “No election tomorrow” and held up banners reading “You have destroyed the country” as riot police stood blocking roads and a helicopter circled overhead. In one place, a column of police barged through the crowd.
The election is shaping up to be a pivotal moment in the months-long struggle between the shadowy network of military, security and political leaders known as the “pouvoir,” who have ruled for decades, and a leaderless street protest movement.
While the military, the dominant force in the pouvoir — “the power” — has cast the election as the only way to end the stalemate on the streets, the protesters reject it as a sham designed to maintain the status quo.
They say no election can be free or fair while the old guard of rulers remain in power and the military stays involved in politics. No foreign observers are in Algeria to monitor the vote.
Whoever is elected after Thursday’s first round and a potential run-off later this month will face a series of hard decisions, with declining energy revenue leading to a planned 9% cut in public spending next year.

DEADLOCK
The deadlock between the enormous protest movement and a state increasingly dominated by the military has put at stake the political future of Africa’s largest country, a nation of 40 million people and a major gas supplier to Europe.
All five of the state-approved candidates running on Thursday are former senior officials linked to the former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika whom the army forced aside in April in response to the protests.
“Algerians want radical change. They are fed up,” said student Ahmed Kamili, 25, wrapped in the national flag.
In the Kabylie region, the fiercest arena of the 1990s civil war between the state and Islamist insurgents, almost all businesses and government offices are closed in a general strike in support of the protesters and against the election.
“The baker and pharmacy are the only open shops in the village,” said Mezouane Azouz, a resident of Haizer in the Kabylie region.
Army chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Gaed Salah, who has emerged as Algeria’s most powerful political player since Bouteflika was ousted, has pushed for Thursday’s vote as the only way to resolve the political crisis.


24-hour curfew in Riyadh, Jeddah and other cities

Updated 42 sec ago

24-hour curfew in Riyadh, Jeddah and other cities

  • 15 govt bodies work together to repatriate Saudis abroad
  • The 24-hour curfew will be applied for the first time in the cities of Riyadh, Tabuk, Dammam, Dhahran and Al-Hofuf

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia placed its capital Riyadh and other major cities under a 24-hour curfew on Monday.

The new curfew applies to the cities of Riyadh, Tabuk, Dammam, Dhahran, Hofuf, and the provinces of Jeddah, Taif, Qatif and Alkhobar, a statement from the Interior Ministry said.
Entry to or exit from those areas will not be allowed, except for vital workers. Residents are allowed to leave their homes for medical or food needs inside their residential area and between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. only.
Fifteen government agencies are coordinating to facilitate the repatriation of Saudi citizens from abroad amid the global outbreak of the coronavirus. During the daily press briefing, Health Ministry spokesman, Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly, said that his ministry was cooperating with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its repatriation operations.
In the Kingdom, the total number of confirmed cases is 2,605 with 203 new cases recorded on Sunday. He said that 551 patients have recovered and 2,016 are still being treated. The number of deaths in the Kingdom stands at 38.
Al-Aly said that updates about COVID-19 in the Kingdom with details of its geographical spread can be found at covid19.moh.gov.sa.
Tourism Ministry spokesman Anas Al-Sulai said: “The Ministry of Tourism has provided over 11,000 hotel rooms to accommodate Saudis returning from abroad, as they will be isolated to ensure their safety,” Al-Sulai said. The operation includes eight electronic services and the involvement of 15 government bodies that are working 24 hours to ensure the completion of the operation safely.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, Naif Al-Otaibi, said that 22,000 environmental sanitation devices and 15,000 cadres are being used to sanitize and control areas.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, the General Directorate of Passports called on all citizens and residents to activate the feature to receive notifications for its services available through the “Absher” application for electronic services on smartphones.
By doing so, users will be able to receive information about the status of their official documents and the dates of their expiry.