Critics say a new measure aimed at suppressing the Hirak protest movement ahead of parliamentary polls in June.
Algeria will ban unauthorized demonstrations, the country’s interior ministry has announced, a move that observers say is aimed at a protest movement that has lasted for years and is seeking democratic reforms.
The announcement came on Sunday in protest of the Hirak movement gained momentum in recent weeks after a month-long hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Thousands of protesters 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 with the demise of the octogenarian.
The Interior Ministry said all the protests, many of which have now turned into broader calls for systemic change, would need a permit specifying the names of the organizers and a time to start and end the demonstrations. .
“Failure to comply with these procedures will result in violation of the law and the constitution, which denies the legitimacy of the march, and will have to be dealt with on that basis,” the ministry said.
These restrictions, even if given permission, would mean appointing specific people as formally responsible for a hitherto leaderless protest movement.
The measures are in line with a clause in a new constitution approved by Algerian voters in November last year, in a referendum that garnered only 25% turnout, which requires organizers to report in advance before the demonstrations.
Some protesters believe the restrictions are aimed at ending all marches on the street.
“They are looking for reasons to justify any decision to ban the marches,” Ahak Badili, a member of Hirak, told Reuters news agency.
The restrictions come ahead of the June 12 early legislative elections that President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, elected in December 2019 in a vote boycotted by the protest movement, promised would be fair and transparent.
Although Tebboune has publicly praised the rallies as a time of national renewal and offered dialogue with the movement, security forces have detained protesters and received criticism from rights organizations.