Algeria protesters keep up pressure on regime

Police officers use a water cannon to disperse people protesting after parliament appointed upper house chairman Abdelkader Bensalah as interim president following the resignation of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in Algiers, Algeria April 9, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 19 April 2019

Algeria protesters keep up pressure on regime

  • Protesters gathered in Algerian cities for the 9th straight Friday of demonstrations against the country's leadership
  • They are calling for the departure of 3 figures in the interim government

ALGIERS: Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators returned to Algeria’s streets on Friday to press demands for wholesale democratic change well beyond former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s resignation, chanting “we do what we want,” witnesses said.
Parliament named an interim president and a July 4 election date was set in a transition endorsed by Algeria’s powerful military. But Bouteflika’s April 2 exit failed to placate many Algerians who want to topple the entire elite that have dominated the country since independence from France in 1962.
Protesters gathered anew in city centers around Algeria demanding root-and-branch reforms — including political pluralism and crackdowns on corruption and cronyism, witnesses said. Numbers later surged after Friday prayers.
There was no official count but Reuters reporters at the scene estimated the number of demonstrators in the hundreds of thousands as on previous Fridays since the extraordinary mass dissent erupted on Feb. 22.
“We will not give up our demands,” said Mourad Hamini, standing outside his coffee shop, where thousands of protesters were waving Algerian flags.
The crowd later chanted: “This is our country and we do what we want!“
Protesters also called for Abdelkader Bensalah, head of the upper house of parliament, to quit as caretaker president and for Noureddine Bedoui to stand down as interim prime minister.
“They must go. The B’s must go,” one banner read, referring to Bensalah, Bedoui and Moad Bouchareb, head of the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) party.
Tayib Belaiz, chairman of Algeria’s Constitutional Council and a fourth senior “B” official, resigned earlier this week.

A young man who was injured in protests in the Algerian capital last week died on Friday of injuries to the head, Ennahar TV said on Friday.
Ennahar said there were two accounts regarding the death of the 18-year-old. The first was that he was beaten during last Friday's protests and the second was that he fell from a truck on his way to the protests.
Police are investigating his death, Ennahar added.
On Tuesday, armed forces chief Lt. General Ahmed Gaed Salah said the military was considering all options to resolve the national political crisis and warned “time is running out.”
It was a hint the military was losing patience with the popular upheaval shaking Algeria, a major oil and natural-gas exporter and a key security partner for the West against extremist militants in north and west Africa.
Salah did not specify what measures the army could take but added: “We have no ambition but to protect our nation.”
The army has so far patiently monitored the mostly peaceful protests that at times swelled to hundreds of thousands of people. It remains the most powerful institution in Algeria, having swayed politics from the shadows for decades.
Protesters want a clean break with “le pouvoir” (the power) — the secretive establishment comprised of veterans of the war of independence against France, senior FLN figures and associated oligarchs — and sweeping reforms.
“The ninth Friday is a vote against the gang,” read a banner held up by protesters on Saturday.
“The system will go sooner or later,” said Mohamed Dali, who was selling sweets to protesters.
Another banner read: “The country is ours and the army is ours.”


Turkey’s rulers plot law changes to block breakaway parties’ power grab

Updated 28 May 2020

Turkey’s rulers plot law changes to block breakaway parties’ power grab

  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP is working on a plan to stop parliamentary deputies from transferring to other parties

ANKARA: Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is looking at ways to change electoral laws in order to block challenges to power from two new breakaway political parties.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP and its nationalist coalition partner the MHP are working on a plan to stop parliamentary deputies from transferring to other parties — a move that has fueled rumors of an imminent snap election in the country.

Under Turkish election rules, political parties must settle their organization procedures in at least half of the nation’s cities and hold their first convention six months ahead of an election date.

Any political party with 20 lawmakers in Turkey’s parliament is entitled to take part in elections and be eligible for financial aid from the treasury for the electoral process.

The leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has hinted at the possibility of transferring some CHP lawmakers to the newly founded parties to secure their participation in elections.

Turkey’s ex-premier, Ahmet Davutoglu, and the country’s former economy czar, Ali Babacan, both longtime allies of Erdogan, recently left the AKP to establish their own opposition groups, and have come under pressure from the AKP and MHP to leave their parties out of the race.

Babacan has been critical of Erdogan’s move away from a parliamentary system of governance in Turkey to one providing the president with wide-ranging powers without any strong checks and balances.

“The AKP is abolishing what it built with its own hands. The reputation and the economy of the country is in ruins. The number of competent people has declined in the ruling party. Decisions are being taken without consultations and inside a family,” Babacan said in a recent interview.

He also claimed that AKP officials were competing against each other for personal financial gain.

Babacan, a founding member of the AKP, was highly respected among foreign investors during his time running the economy. He resigned from the party last year over “deep differences” to set up his DEVA grouping on March 9 with a diverse team of former AKP officials and liberal figures.

Berk Esen, a political analyst from Ankara’s Bilkent University, believes Babacan’s recent statements have angered Erdogan.

“As a technocrat, Babacan gains respect from secular circles as well as the international community, which Erdogan clearly lacks. Despite being in office for 13 years, Babacan has not been tainted by corruption allegations and is known as the chief architect of Turkey’s rapid economic growth during the AKP’s first two terms,” he told Arab News.

“The legislation that the AKP-MHP coalition is working on may prevent deputy transfer only in case early elections are scheduled for the fall. Otherwise, the newly established parties will most likely build their organizations across the country and become viable for elections by summer, if not the spring of 2021.”

If Davutoglu and Babacan were successful in capturing disillusioned voters, they could prevent the ruling coalition getting the 51 percent of votes needed to secure a parliamentary majority.