ALGIERS: A big crowd of protesters marched through central Algiers on Wednesday to demand that a presidential election planned for Thursday be cancelled, chanting that they would not vote in a poll they regard as a charade.
Thousands of people crowded through the capital to demand that the vote be cancelled until the entire ruling elite step down and the military quit politics.
They chanted “No election tomorrow” and held up banners reading “You have destroyed the country”.
Algeria’s political stalemate between the enormous protest movement and a state increasingly dominated by the military has put at stake the political future of Africa’s largest country, a nation of 40 million people and a major gas supplier to Europe.
All five of the state-approved candidates running on Thursday are former senior officials linked to the former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika whom the army forced aside in April in response to the protests.
“Algerians want radical change. They are fed up,” said student Ahmed Kamili, 25, wrapped in the national flag.
In the Kabylie region, the fiercest arena of the 1990s civil war between the state and Islamist insurgents, almost all businesses and government offices are closed in a general strike in support of the protesters and against the election.
“The baker and pharmacy are the only open shops in the village,” said Mezouane Azouz, a resident of Haizer in the Kabylie region.
Army chief Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah, who has emerged as Algeria’s most powerful political player since Bouteflika was ousted, has pushed for Thursday’s vote as the only way to resolve the political crisis.