Algerian protesters insist December election must not go ahead

Algerian protesters take part in a demonstration against the country's army chief in Algeria's capital Algiers, as the police toughens its line ahead of December elections. (AFP)
Algerian protesters take part in a demonstration against the country's army chief in Algeria's capital Algiers, as the police toughens its line ahead of December elections. (AFP)

Algerians thronged their capital on Friday to insist that a presidential election set for December 12 must not go ahead before a change of regime.

Protesters fear the poll will cement in power politicians close to ex-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who quit in April under popular pressure after two decades as head of state.

The five candidates standing in the December poll all either supported the former leader or took part in his government.

"There will be no vote!" demonstrators chanted on Friday. "We swear we will not stop!"

They denounced an official crackdown on the so-called "Hirak" movement that has shaken the country with months of unprecedented protests.

Security forces, both uniformed and plain-clothed, flooded Algiers for the 41st consecutive Friday of demonstrations, deploying water cannon and anti-barricade vehicles.

"This is intimidation! Why so many police vehicles? We're protesting peacefully and are against violence," said Tassadit Ourabeh, 64.

At least 25 people were arrested before Friday's march, AFP journalists said. Police also used tear gas against young protesters outside a police station, witnesses said.

On Thursday, a European Parliament resolution said MEPs "strongly condemn the arbitrary and unlawful arrest and detainment of, attacks on and intimidations of journalists, trade unionists, lawyers, students, human rights defenders and civil society and all peaceful protesters".

The Algerian authorities reacted by denouncing what it called "flagrant interference in its internal affairs" and a "disregard" for the country's institutions.

The protesters fear that a regime in power since the former French colony's independence in 1962 seeks to preserve its grip on the country.

As polling day approaches, positions on both sides are hardening, sparking fears of more radical measures.

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