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.


Israel ends ban on Palestinian farm exports, resolving trade spat

Updated 6 min 2 sec ago

Israel ends ban on Palestinian farm exports, resolving trade spat

  • The Palestinian Authority in September significantly reduced calf imports from Israel
  • Israel on February 2 cut Palestinian exports to the Jewish state

JERUSALEM: Israel has ended its ban on Palestinian agricultural exports after the Palestinian Authority lifted its curb on calf imports from Israeli livestock farmers, the defense ministry said Thursday, seemingly resolving a months-long trade dispute.
The Palestinian Authority had in September significantly reduced the number of calves imported from Israel, saying at the time it wanted to decrease dependence on Israeli producers.
After dialogue failed, Israel on February 2 cut Palestinian exports to the Jewish state.
The Palestinians retaliated by banning imports of Israeli produce, soft drinks and mineral water.
Israel then extended its ban on Palestinian exports to the Allenby Bridge border crossing with Jordan, the only route through which Palestinian goods in the West Bank can reach foreign markets.
The trade war had threatened to escalate as tensions in the West Bank surged after US President Donald Trump unveiled a controversial peace plan.
But on Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Bennett announced he had removed all of the restrictions imposed on Palestinian exports, “after the ban on the Israeli farmers was removed,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Palestinian agriculture ministry announced the immediate import of “livestock, including calves” as well as “all products and commercial goods from all countries of the world without obstacles.”
“This came after a series of direct and indirect discussions through international parties, which resulted in Israel retracting its illegal measures,” the ministry said in a statement late Wednesday.