Critics say new measures to suppress the Hirak protest movement ahead of the June general election.
Algeria will ban unauthorized demonstrations, the country’s interior ministry has announced, a move that observers say is aimed at ending a year-long protest movement seeking democratic reforms.
The announcement came on Sunday as protests by the Hirak movement gained momentum in recent weeks after a month-long hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in February 2019 to protest former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s decision to seek a fifth term.
These rallies culminated weeks later in the resignation of the ailing eighty-year-old.
The Home Office said all protests, many of which have now turned into broader calls for systemic change, would require a permit stating the names of the organizers and a start and end time for the demonstrations.
“Failure to follow these procedures will result in violations of the law and the Constitution that deny the legitimacy of the march, and it will be necessary to deal with it on that basis,” the ministry said.
Such restrictions, even if permits were given, would mean naming certain individuals as formally responsible for a hitherto leaderless protest movement.
The measures are in line with a clause in a new constitution that was passed by Algerian voters in a referendum last November with only 25 percent turnout. The organizers are required to provide information in advance of the demonstrations.
Some protesters believe the restrictions are aimed at ending all street marches.
“They are looking for reasons to justify a decision to ban marches,” Ahmed Badili, a member of Hirak, told Reuters.
The restrictions come ahead of the June 12 early parliamentary elections, which President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who was elected in a vote boycotted by the protest movement in December 2019, has promised to be fair and transparent.
While Tebboune publicly praised the rallies as a moment of national renewal and offered a dialogue with the movement, security forces arrested demonstrators and criticized right-wing organizations.