Algerian security forces form a human barrier in front of demonstrators taking part in a rally in the capital, Algiers, September 17 2019. Picture: RYAD KRAMDI / AFP
Algerian security forces form a human barrier in front of demonstrators taking part in a rally in the capital, Algiers, September 17 2019. Picture: RYAD KRAMDI / AFP

Algiers – Protesters massed in the Algerian capital on Tuesday to demand the cancellation of a controversial presidential election planned for December 12.

Interim leader Abdelkader Bensalah announced the poll on Monday in a bid to resolve the political deadlock gripping the country since the April resignation of veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

But activists have demanded political reforms and the removal of Bouteflika loyalists including powerful army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah before any vote takes place.

The general, who has become a key powerbroker since Bouteflika's departure, has led the push for polls by the end of the year in keeping with the constitution.

After Bouteflika resigned in the face of mass protests in April, presidential elections were called for July 4.

However the vote was postponed due to a lack of viable candidates, leaving a political vacuum in the North African country.

Protesters have held mass rallies every Tuesday and Friday since  February 11, calling for key regime figures to step down.

Police detained at least 10 protesters in central Algiers and confiscated cellphones of people who filmed the arrests, according to a witness. 

"Students represent the majority of voters and we will not participate" in the election, said Samia, a law student at Tuesday's demonstration.

"We will stay mobilised until our demands are met: the removal of all representatives of Bouteflika's regime before any election," she said. "How do they expect us to participate in a democratic election when they keep arresting protesters and activists?"

AFP