The political transition in Algeria has been short-lived. The Hirak movement, which managed to put an end to the regime imposed by Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has returned to the streets, now against the new president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune and his government. The argument of the leaders is that everything that happened between 2019 and 2020 only resulted in nothing changing. Some initiatives to liberalise the system have not caught on with the population, which considers them to be more of the same.
A few days ago, the government decreed the release of several hundred prisoners arrested during the more than 50 tumultuous demonstrations that took place over the last two years. It was a decision presented as one of goodwill that did not succeed in calming tempers; on the contrary, the atmosphere has once again become more tense and even more virulent. Last week, protest marches took place in several cities.
And on Tuesday, it was in Algiers, where many business protection installations from the previous phase still remain. Despite the rain, thousands of people again gathered in the squares and adjacent streets. Some came from the hinterland, circumventing the traffic restrictions imposed. The police again intervened harshly and arrested about a thousand demonstrators. Several dozen demonstrators and police were injured in the clashes.
Some witnesses reported that the repression was harsher than in previous confrontations. Those familiar with the current situation agree on the unease caused by the economic difficulties aggravated by the measures against COVID-19. Authorities and many citizens express their fear of the consequences of such demonstrations on the spread of the pandemic.
Many demonstrators did not wear masks, nor, of course, did they respect the recommended distances to avoid contagion. Shouts of protest were a constant in the possible spread of the virus. Criticism of the media, particularly television, stood out among the protests, accusing them of failing to correctly report their concerns and defend their rights.