Thousands of Algerians, including students and teachers, participated in mass protests in the capital, Algiers, on Tuesday, December 17, against the country’s newly elected president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune. The protesters, belonging to the popular Hirak movement that has been organising protests across the country since February, have also rejected the offer for dialogue by the new president. President-elect Tebboune had, on Friday, said that he was ready to participate in talks “to build a new Algeria” following his presidential victory. Tebboune won the presidential election that was held last Thursday, December 12, with reportedly 58.1% of the votes, as per official results. Tebboune was prime minister for a brief while during the rule of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
A large section of Algerians had vehemently opposed the December 12 elections, claiming that it was a covert attempt by the country’s elites and the ruling establishment to maintain their hold on power. The protesters had demanded that all officials and associates of the previous regime of the deposed president Bouteflika be barred from actively participating in politics or interfering in the country’s political affairs. The Hirak protest movement began in February to oppose the then president Bouteflika, who had announced his bid for a fifth term in office.
The mass protests that gripped the country following this declaration resulted in Bouteflika not only deciding not to run, but ultimately resigning from the presidency in April. The Hirak movement continued to hold rallies and demonstrations in the country on a weekly basis, demanding further administrative and structural reforms in Algeria. The protesters also made it clear that they would not accept any members and officials of the old regime in a new, reformed Algerian government.
Bitterly opposed to the December presidential elections, the movement issued public calls for a massive popular boycott. Tens of thousands of Algerians ended up boycotting the elections, which saw only a 39.9% voter turnout. Angry protesters ransacked police stations and there were reports of clashes between them and the police. Several protesters were injured by rubber bullets fired by the security forces, as per the reports of various human rights groups. Regarding those injured, Said Salhi, deputy head of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH), said that while “some are still hospitalised… and some have lost their eyes for good.”