Algerians unimpressed by Tebboune’s belated political offer

The authorities are is betting on measures of appeasement to contain the growing anger in the street that could spark the Hirak once again.


Saturday 20/02/2021
Demonstrate protest outside the Kolea prison, west of the capital Algiers, February 19, 2021. (REUTERS)
Demonstrate protest outside the Kolea prison, west of the capital Algiers, February 19, 2021. (REUTERS)

ALGIERS – 

The Algerian street quickly rejected the political offer made by President Abdelmajid Tebboune to appease the popular protest movement, by releasing detainees and dissolving parliament, on the eve of the second anniversary of the Hirak.

Hundreds of protesters in the east of the country reiterated their commitment to the demands of the protest movement, and expressed their lack of interest in the appeasement moves announced by Tebboune.

The Algerian authorities released a number of Hirak detainees, on Friday, under a presidential amnesty decree.  Others are to be released in the coming days.

On Friday, in the eastern city of Khenchela, hundreds of activists and opposition members marked the second anniversary of the Algerian Hirak movement, on February 19.

The protests in Khenchela were a quick response from the Algerian street to the political proposals made by President Tebboune in his speech of Thursday evening.

Tebboune announced a presidential pardon for about 60 detainees, the dissolution of the National People’s Assembly (the first chamber of parliament), and a government reshuffle. The reactions indicate that the country’s political situation remains in square one.

Amid an unprecedented popular mobilisation that brought back memories of the atmosphere that prevailed before February 2018, Algeria entered a countdown in anticipation of an imminent return to the political protests that were suspended for more than a year after the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic and the authorities’ tightening of their grip on the domestic situation.

The exacerbation of social tensions brought the situation again to the brink of explosion as the announced package did not seem enough by itself to prevent events from possibly spinning out of control.

On Friday morning, dozens of activists and relatives of detainees waited outside prisons for the release of the detainees included in the presidential pardon.

Amidst a state of anticipation and ambiguity over the list of freed detainees, they learned about the release of some activists in a number of cities and governorates, such as that of the oldest detainee, Mohammad Nayli, 71, in the city of Tebessa, in the far east of the country. The rest of the list was not that clear.

It seemed that the package of measures did not convince the Algerian street, as it did not provide an end to the security approach and to restrictions to freedoms.

President Tebboune, who did not address the Algerians often since he took office in December 2019, did not appear fully recovered from his illness as he tried to convince the Algerians of the results achieved in the first year of his rule.

Tebboune recalled some measures directed at the social front, such as raising the minimum wage by about $ 15 and exempting six million Algerians from a tax that was applied to their wages.

The speech suggested that the new authorities in the country intend to pursue the same policy of buying social peace, which was followed by their predecessors, despite the repercussions of the economic crisis, the impact of the pandemic and the fall in oil prices.