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Former PM declared Algeria president, but thousands protest again

The Arab World | 2019-12-13 18:08:00
Former PM declared Algeria president, but thousands protest again
Thousands of protesters have gathered on the streets of Algeria's capital after former Prime Minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune was declared the winner of Algeria's presidential election.

Tebboune - who also served as housing minister under Abdelaziz Bouteflika - the former president forced to step down in April following mass protests - won 58.15 percent of Thursday's vote, according to preliminary results announced on Friday.

The 74-year-old's closest rival, Abdelkader Bengrina, came second with 17.38 percent. Former Prime Minister Ali Benflis was third, with 10.55 percent, while former Minister of Culture Azzedine Mihoubi came in fourth place, with 7.26 percent. Abdelaziz Belaid, the head of el Moustakbal party, obtained 6.66 percent.
On Friday, huge crowds gathered in Algiers to protest against the election, denouncing it as a "sham" because of the links of all five presidential candidates to the former president and the ruling elite.

"The elections are rigged," protesters chanted, pledging that their months-long movement would not stop.

"Tebboune is worse than Bouteflika. He's known for being one of the thieves," Meriem, a 31-year-old civil servant, told AFP news agency.

"We did not vote and we will not back down."

Turnout at 40 percent
Authorities said 40 percent of voters had taken part in Thursday's election, which state media cast as a high enough turnout to vindicate the decision to hold the poll, in spite of protesters' call for a boycott.

"The turnout is satisfying and it will give the new president enough backing to implement his reforms," said Ahmed Mizab, a commentator on state television, saying it showed the decision to hold the elections was "propitious and right".

The authorities, including the powerful army, argue that the only way to move the country forward after demonstrators brought an end to Bouteflika's 20-year rule in April is to elect a successor.

Weekly protests that toppled Bouteflika have not stopped, with demonstrators demanding the entire ruling elite cede power to a new generation, despite no obvious leader emerging to represent them. The protesters refer to themselves simply as "Hirak", or "the movement".

Protesters marched in cities and towns across Algeria throughout Thursday's election, in some places clashing with police, who tried to disperse them with baton charges.

Riad Mekersi, 24, who has participated in all the Hirak protests since February 22 in Algiers, said the movement will continue no matter who wins.

"We have toppled Bouteflika, and we will topple all the system's men. We won't give up," he said.

Even without questions over his legitimacy, Tebboune will face difficult times.

Nearly all Algerian state revenues come from oil and gas exports, which have declined in both price and volume in recent years. The government has already approved a 2020 budget with a nine percent cut in public spending, though politically sensitive subsidies remain untouched.




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