Minister vows to crush dissent "with an iron fist" ahead of elections
Algerians are struggling as the country's economy slows and unemployment rises. Protests over the government's socio-economic plans took place throughout the country in the months leading up to the May 2017 parliamentary elections. Frustrated with poor governance and persistent economic problems, young people in particular have taken to the streets in various local protests, which have at times led to clashes with police. The authorities have thus far been unwilling to talk with the demonstrators, and instead, have reacted to the unrest by detaining participants and disrupting protests. Furthermore, in response to the protests, Algeria's Interior Minister, Noureddine Badawi has threatened to “strike with an iron fist whoever tries to destabilise the country’s security”.
In recent months, trade unions have also mobilised over labour-related issues in Algeria; however, the authorities in turn have disrupted union-related actions and prevented members from exercising their right to peaceful assembly. On 21st - 22nd March 2017, for example, police detained five leaders from the trade union - National Autonomous Union of Sonelgaz Gas and Electricity Workers (SNATEG) - to prevent them from participating in a protest march scheduled for the following day in Tizi Ouzou.
SNATEG organised a peaceful protest on 22nd March 2017 in the city of Bejaia, where thousands turned out to petition for better pay. In response to the demonstration, the police arrested 240 protesters, several of whom were injured during the arrests.
More than 200 SNATEG members planned a union meeting on 31st March at their headquarters but were forcefully dispersed by police. Police arrested and later released several SNATEG leaders in attendance, and other union members were interrogated and forced to leave the premises.
Prior to the 4th May 2017 parliamentary elections, the Algerian government prohibited domestic media from reporting on organisations and political parties that were calling for a boycott of the elections due to concerns over the lack of transparency and fairness in the electoral process.
In April, Algeria’s High Authority for Election Monitoring (HIISE) ruled that political parties must show the faces of female candidates on parliamentary election posters. Previously, female candidates' faces were excluded from electoral posters because of widely followed traditional norms. An HIISE official stated,
“This kind of exclusion is dangerous, illegal and unconstitutional, especially as these women are candidates going to represent the people. The citizen has the right to know the person to vote for”.
Algeria's main Islamist party, Movement of Society for Peace, however, declared the HIISE decision illegal and announced that candidates would file a court action if disqualified from the elections for not abiding by the HIISE ruling.