An umbrella group of political activists in Algeria is calling for a boycott of the April 18 presidential polls as part of efforts to get the government to undertake key political and electoral reforms.
Ali Benouari, vice-president of the Mouwatana group told the BBC that anti-Bouteflika protests were sure to continue if government decides to press ahead with the vote.
According to him the country was currently in a strange situation where the activists and opposition were on one side with the government on the other.
“We are in this very strange situation (where) now the streets is ahead, the opposition is behind. The problem for the opposition is how to manage the situation without looking opportunist,” he said.
Asked what exactly the activists wanted to achieve, he confirmed that they expected the government to postpone the polls and establish an independent democratic transition body to enter negotiations with the opposition on the way forward.
The decision by ailing president Abdul Aziz Bouteflika to seek a fifth term in office has birthed widespread protests across the country. Bouteflika has been president since 1999 – one of Africa’s longest serving leaders.
He has barely been seen in public and has cancelled official engagements in the past due to ill health. The ruling party had indicated that he was their preferred candidate despite what some say is blatant incapacity to rule.
The latest concession from Bouteflika’s camp was over the weekend when he reportedly offered to serve a one-year term if he was reelected in the polls. The protests have gone beyond Algeria to cities across the world.
What he said about boycott
The call for a boycott is because we don’t think the next election will be free. There is no control on the election process. The election process is controlled by the administration and they know that administration receives instruction from the government and also the secret services.
So on the elections, we used to ask for this independent commission but the regime has never accepted that.
Who does he expect to become president
The representative of the people. The actual candidates are not reflecting the aim of the political parties. Most of the political parties have calld for a boycott so we have only few candidates most of them are representing the regime.
Out of 31 candidates, we could say quite all of them are candidates of the regime. They are used just to justify that the elections are free and fair and pluralist.
What next if Bouteflika leaves?
The fact is that even though Bouteflika will not be able to go to the elections, it does not reflect the political spectrum. We call for a boycott and to go to a transitional period which could be necessarily organized by independent people.
Who is in charge of current developments
The agenda now is controlled by both the government and the streets. The agenda is not fixed by the opposition parties. The government may decide at any time to stop the election process and to enter negotiations with the opposition. Otherwise the demonstrations will continue …
We’d continue protesting without a timeline but in the mean time we try to organize ourselves as opposition to find the solution but once again we don’t have the keys.
We are in this very strange situation (where) now the streets is ahead, the opposition is behind. The problem for the opposition is how to manage the situation without looking opportunist.