Algerians take to the streets to oppose presidential poll

An Algerian protester holds a placard reading "I won't vote" during a demonstration against the ruling class in the capital Algiers on September 13, 2019, for the 30th consecutive Friday since the movement began (AFP Photo/RYAD KRAMDI)

Algiers (AFP) - Algerians returned to the streets Friday, protesting proposed presidential elections after parliament passed bills that could pave the way for the announcement of a vote to take place in December.

Demonstrations that started in February led to the resignation of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April, after 20 years at the helm.

But the movement has continued, with protestors taking to the streets for a 30th consecutive week Friday.

Demonstrators are demanding key regime figures step down and an overhaul of political institutions before any polls, arguing any election under the current framework will only reinforce the status quo.

"Those close to Bouteflika are still in power and an election in these conditions is simply a masquerade", said engineer Lyes Mesbah, 48.

The army, which has de facto taken the reins of the country, has been calling for speedy elections to replace Bouteflika, with army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah repeatedly insisting that polls be held before year-end.

Despite a deluge the day before that flooded many neighbourhoods of the capital Algiers, protestors came out in force to oppose an election.

Last week, Gaid Salah called for an electoral college to be summoned on September 15, so as to conduct an election within 90 days, in mid-December.

This week, parliament passed two bills that would facilitate the announcement of a vote.

Justice Minister Belkacem Zeghmati presented the bills on Wednesday, with both legislative chambers passing them within two days.

Opposition parties in the People's National Assembly boycotted the session in which the bills were passed.

The first bill proposed the creation of an "independent" election authority, which would receive "all prerogatives of public authorities -- namely on administrative electoral matters."

This body would be responsible for organising, monitoring the electoral process and "overseeing all its stages, from the convening of the electoral body to the announcement of the preliminary results", according to Zeghmati.

The second text was a revision of the electoral law, meant to guarantee "transparency, regularity and neutrality" of elections.

Presidential polls planned for July 4 were postponed due to a lack of viable candidates, plunging the country into a constitutional crisis as the 90 day mandate for the interim head of state -- Abdelkader Bensalah -- expired in early July.

The army's high command has rejected any solution to the crisis other than presidential elections "in the shortest possible time".