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Algeria rights group blasts preelection ‘repression’

By AFP - May 24,2021 - Last updated at May 24,2021

ALGIERS — An Algerian rights group on Monday decried “escalating repression” ahead of next month’s parliamentary election, the latest poll to be boycotted by the country’s protest movement.

“By resorting to intensified repression... the regime highlights the failure of its political roadmap and its inability to bring about a solution to the crisis gripping the country,” said Said Salhi, vice president of rights group LADDH.

Sixty-two people were taken into custody on Friday across the country, including nine protesters handed one-year prison terms by a court in Skikda in the northeast.

Algeria’s Hirak protest movement first took to the streets in February 2019 to oppose then president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in office.

Two months later, the longtime ruler was forced to step down as rallies swelled into the hundreds of thousands.

The peaceful protest movement has since focused in part on persuading people to boycott national votes, as it seeks a deep overhaul of the country’s post-independence political system.

A December 2019 presidential poll — won by Abdelmadjid Tebboune, a former prime minister under Bouteflika — was marred by a low turnout that even official figures put at less than 40 per cent.

The legislative polls, set for June 12, “have already lost all credibility and legitimacy”, argued Salhi.

“They are unfolding on the basis of a closed political and media playing field, the closure of public space and the stifling of free speech,” he added.

The interior ministry announced on May 9 that protest organisers would need to coordinate with authorities ahead of any planned rallies.

Demonstrations have since been blocked by security forces who have made more and more arrests.

 

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