Algerian intellectuals slam Bouteflika regime and call for democracy

Algerian intellectuals slam Bouteflika regime and call for democracy
In a joint statement, Algerian writers, filmmakers, poets and critics lambasted Bouteflika and called for the formation of a new government 'for all Algerians'.
3 min read
25 February, 2019
Demonstrations against Bouteflika's proposed fifth term have occured in Algiers, London and Paris [AFP]

Leading Algerian intellectuals and thinkers have rejected President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term as leader in a joint statement, as resistance grows to the leader who has been in power for two-decades.

"The Algerian people have taken themselves up as the true and legitimate owner of sovereignty and power," Algerian writers, poets, filmmakers, and playwrights said in a joint statement on Monday.

"We refuse to continue the mockery of false democracy, and we reject the regime of generals, turbans, despicable discrimination, and historic revisionism."

It comes as hundreds demonstrated on Sunday against the ailing leader's attempts to continue his 20-year-long rule.

The declaration expressed support for the formation of a "national constituent assembly" with the power to draft a "democratic constitution", which would be put to vote by the Algerian people in a referendum.

The intellectuals and creatives stated that Bouteflika's regime has "no will, no willingness and no ability" to reform the state and is aware that its achievements do not live up to the "aspirations of the people".

The regime should give way to a "civil" state "for all Algerians" built on the basis of "freedom, democracy, justice and equality", the statement said.

"More than half a century after the kidnapping of independence and the state by a league with dubious affiliation and loyalty to Algeria, which seized power illegally, confiscated all freedoms, practised all forms of tyranny, and wasted most of the historical opportunities to complete the goal of liberation and realise the dreams of the martyrs and freedom fighters," the statement said.

The proposed assembly should also establish a "National Commission for Justice and Reconciliation", as well as run free-and-fair presidential and parliamentary elections.

Poet Meilod Khizar, writer Hamri Bahri, critic Mohammad bin Zayan, novelist Abdel Wahab bin Mansour, film critic Abdel Kareem Qadri, novelist Ibrahim Saadi, renowned poet Bouzid Harazallah, playwright Mohamed Chershal and singer Fouad Mann were among the signatories of the statement.

Demonstrators have rallied against the continuation of Bouteflika's stay in office, despite protests being banned in the capital Algiers where tens of thousands gathered on Friday before being dispersed with tear gas.

Bouteflika, who uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, announced on 10 February that he will run for another term in office in the 18 April election.

He has had a long battle with illness and has frequently flown to France for treatment, most recently traveling to Switzerland last week for "routine medical checks".

Bouteflika is Algeria's longest-serving president and a veteran of its independence struggle who has clung to power since 1999 despite his ill health.

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab