Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 October 2020

Algeria protesters demand army quit politics after cleric urges election

They called for a purging of the ruling elite and an end to corruption in the country

Algerian protesters face riot police during a demonstration against the ruling class in the capital Algiers on October 4 for the 33rd consecutive Friday since the movement began. AFP
Algerian protesters face riot police during a demonstration against the ruling class in the capital Algiers on October 4 for the 33rd consecutive Friday since the movement began. AFP

Tens of thousands of Algerian protesters chanted slogans on Friday demanding the army quit politics, a purge of the ruling elite, an end to corruption, and the freeing of opposition leaders.

The demonstrations in the capital Algiers and several other cities follow a ruling by a prominent independent cleric this week urging people to vote in a December election backed by the army but opposed by the protest movement.

The fatwa, or Islamic legal ruling, and another two weeks ago, represent the first significant comment on the months-long political crisis by major independent clerics, and may influence conservative Algerians.

The army, which has emerged as the most powerful player in Algerian politics, sees December's presidential election as the only way to quell the protests and end the constitutional limbo that has prevailed since president Abdelaziz Bouteflika stood down in April.

Demonstrators have rejected the election, however, saying it could not be free or fair while Mr Bouteflika's allies and military leaders maintain senior positions in the government.

Sheikh Lakhdar Zaoui, a well-known conservative cleric, published a fatwa, or Islamic legal ruling, on Wednesday, saying a Muslim country could not be leaderless.

"When Prophet Mohammed died, he was not buried until a successor was designated by his companions," he said.

Another cleric, Sheikh Chemseddine Bouroubi, who has a daily television show "Please Advise Me" that answers people's questions about religion, said last month it was forbidden for Algeria to have no president.

Algeria plunged into crisis in February when massive protests erupted to stop the old, sick Mr Bouteflika running for a fifth term in an election that was scheduled for July.

He resigned on April 2, and the election was postponed. The authorities have meanwhile tried a carrot-and-stick approach to end the demonstrations, arresting Bouteflika allies on corruption charges but also increasing policing at protests.

The leaderless protesters have said the arrests so far are not enough, demanding that the rest of the ruling elite be removed including interim president Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Nouredine Bedoui.

Updated: October 5, 2019 02:59 AM

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