Huge crowds protest in Algeria’s capital as loyalist of deposed leader elected president

Protests have renewed with fresh momentum in Algeria as a former prime minister has been elected as president, despite over ten months of anti-government demonstrations to force the old political elite out. 

Thousands took to the streets with fresh vigour after around 60 per cent of the country boycotted the election. 

The North African country went to the polls on Thursday for a delayed presidential election, despite protesters demands that the vote be further delayed until the entire political establishment and the army’s role in politics has been removed. 

“Civil state, no to a military state,” protestors reportedly chanted.  

Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who also served as a housing minister under the recently removed President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, as well as briefly being premier, was announced as the new president on Friday. 

The election was seen as a sham to protestors, designed to keep the shadowy military-backed political elite in place, as all five of the candidates had previously been loyal to Bouteflika or served under him.

The movement started in February to protest President Bouteflika’s plans to run for a fifth term, though they have continued long past forcing his resignation in April. 

Protesters are opposing what they describe as a corrupt inner-circle of politicians, the military’s primacy in the state and harsh cuts to state spending.

“The vote is rigged. Your president will not govern us,” videos online show protesters chanting in Algiers on Friday.

President Tebboune, 74, now faces the challenge of trying to navigate Algeria out of its biggest political crisis in decades.

Showing their nerves around the controversial election, there have been increasing crackdowns on protesters by the authorities in recent days. One protest leader, Kaddour Chouicha, was arrested, convicted and sentenced to a year in prison all in one day on Tuesday. 

“Chouicha appears to have been convicted simply for criticizing the armed forces, making political statements, and participating in a political protest,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

The organisation estimates that over 120 peaceful protesters have been sent to prison or are being held in pretrial detention for participating in the weekly “Hirak” demonstrations.

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