Algerian President Calls Early Election, Pardons Jailed Protesters

Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune in February 2020.
19 February 2021

Algeria's President Abdelmadjid Tebboune dissolved the parliament and announced a government reshuffle in a highly anticipated address to the nation. The new elections are likely to take place by the end of the year.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Thursday announced the dissolution of the parliament, paving the way for early elections, and ordered an amnesty for jailed activists of a protest movement.

"I have decided to dissolve the National Popular Assembly and call for elections to build a new institution," Tebboune said, in a speech broadcast on state television.

The current parliament was elected in May 2017 for a five-year term, with the next legislative elections scheduled to take place in 2022.

While Tebboune did not announce the dates for early polls, they are likely to take place before the year ends, potentially as early as June, and by September at the latest.

The president encouraged young people to run for office and promised to cover their campaign costs, without elaborating. He said he wanted to "open the doors of parliament to young people," adding that they "must have political weight."

Pro-democracy activists pardoned

Tebboune granted "presidential pardon" to around 55 to 60 detainees of the "Hirak" protest movement that forced his predecessor, former strongman Abdelaziz Bouteflika, from power in 2019.

"The blessed Hirak has saved Algeria," Tebboune said, ordering the immediate release of detainees - a demand repeatedly raised by the protesters.

The pardon would cover "perpetrators of crimes related to information and communication technologies," the presidency said.

The release of activists comes amid renewed demonstrations in the build-up to the February 22 anniversary of the first nationwide protests.

Social media was abuzz with calls to demonstrate on Monday across Algeria.

Thousands of Algerians rallied on Tuesday in the northern town of Kherrata, where the first major protest erupted in 2019 against Bouteflika's bid for a fifth presidential term.

What is the Hirak?

The Hirak is a leaderless movement that has demanded a sweeping overhaul of the ruling system in place since Algeria's independence from France in 1962.

They staged mass protests in 2019 forcing Bouteflika to resign after two decades in power.

They also boycotted the December 2019 election of President Tebboube, calling the vote a charade.

Tebboube has often praised the Hirak but failed to pass any major reforms.

Government reshuffle

Tebboune announced on Thursday a government reshuffle that would take place "within 48 hours at most." He has previously expressed dissatisfaction with the cabinet of Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad.

The reshuffle would "concern sectors which have shown shortcomings that are being felt by the people and us," he said.

Algeria, Africa's fourth-largest economy, is facing political and economic crises, with the coronavirus pandemic adding to the woes of an oil-dependent economy.

The North African OPEC member state saw oil revenues collapse in 2020, forcing the government to cut spending and delay some planned investment projects.

(AFP, Reuters, AP)

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