Five candidates, including two former prime ministers, will run to replace ousted Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the country’s election authority said Saturday, amid widespread protests against the vote.
A total of 23 candidates had submitted their papers to run and five were approved, head of the election authority Mohamed Charfi told reporters in Algiers.
The list will be passed to the constitutional council for final validation.
Former premiers Ali Benflis and Abdelmadjid Tebboune are considered front-runners in an election opposed by the mass protest movement that alongside the army forced Bouteflika to resign in April after 20 years in power.
The other candidates are Azzedine Mihoubi, leader of the Democratic National Rally party (RND) that was part of Bouteflika’s ruling coalition, former tourism minister Abdelkader Bengrina and Abdelaziz Belaid, head of the Front El-Moustakbel party.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Algerian capital on Friday in defiance of a heavy security presence to demand the ouster of the country’s army chief.
Demonstrators gathered near the capital’s main post office square — the epicentre of Algeria’s protest movement that forced longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down in April — this time calling for the removal of General Ahmed Gaid Salah.
“The people want the fall of Gaid Salah,” they chanted, referring to the de facto strongman in post-Bouteflika Algeria.
“Take us all to prison, the people will not stop.”
Friday’s demonstration marked Algeria’s 31st consecutive week of rallies, but protesters faced a heavy deployment of security forces in the city centre and along its main avenues.
The army chief on Wednesday ordered police to block protesters from outside Algiers entering the capital, in a bid to stem the flow of people attending anti-regime rallies.
The tougher line on demonstrations comes after interim president Abdelkader Bensalah on Sunday announced a December 12 date for a presidential election to fill the vacuum left by Bouteflika’s departure.
Gaid Salah has led the push for polls by the end of 2019, despite mass protests demanding political reforms and the removal of the former president’s loyalists — including Gaid Salah himself — before any vote.
In the runup to the rally, police made several arrests near the square, AFP photographers said.
Police also stopped vehicles on main streets in the capital and an AFP journalist saw officers in plainclothes ask numerous people for identity papers, before some were led off to nearby vans.
A police helicopter hovered above, while security forces stopped cars headed towards the centre from Algiers’ southwest entrance.
Activists on social media reported traffic jams stretching “several kilometres” from the entrances of the capital.
Said Salhi, deputy head of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights, condemned the heightened security measures as “illegal”.
Demonstrations have officially been banned in Algiers since 2001 but the prohibition had been ignored since rallies started on February 22 against the ailing Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth presidential term.
Presidential polls originally planned for July 4 were postponed due to a lack of viable candidates, plunging the country into a constitutional crisis as Bensalah’s 90-day mandate expired the same month.
The army’s high command has rejected any solution to the crisis other than presidential elections “in the shortest possible time”.
On Thursday, Amnesty International slammed the “growing crackdown that has seen dozens of protesters arrested over the past 10 days”.
Heba Morayef, the rights group’s Middle East and North Africa head, said the “resumption of sweeping arbitrary arrests… is a clear indication that the right to freedom of assembly and expression in Algeria is still very much under threat”.
That statement came the same day as former state TV journalist Fodil Boumala was reportedly arrested.
Boumala, a leading figure in the protests, was detained on accusations of “undermining national unity”, and a court on Thursday ordered his pre-trial detention, his lawyer Abdelghani Badi said on Facebook.
He was the third protest movement figure to be detained within a week, following Karim Tabbou late last week and Samir Benlarbi on Tuesday.
Algeria is to hold a presidential election on December 12, five months into a political vacuum since longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned in the face of mass protests, his interim successor announced Sunday.
“I have decided… that the date of the presidential election will be Thursday, December 12,” said Abdelkader Bensalah, who is precluded from standing himself, in a televised address to the nation.
The announcement comes after army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah, seen as Algeria’s strongman since the fall of the ailing Bouteflika, insisted that polls be held by the end of 2019, despite ongoing protests demanding the creation of new institutions ahead of any elections.
On Friday, Algerian protesters returned to the streets after parliament passed bills paving the way for the announcement of elections.
Demonstrators are demanding key regime figures step down and an overhaul of political institutions before any polls, arguing an election under the current framework would only reinforce the status quo.
Gaid Salah earlier this month called for an electoral college to be summoned on September 15 so as to conduct an election within 90 days, in mid-December.
Last week, parliament passed two bills that would facilitate the announcement of a vote.
Justice Minister Belkacem Zeghmati presented the bills on Wednesday, with both legislative chambers passing them within two days.
Opposition parties in the People’s National Assembly boycotted the session in which the bills were passed.
The first bill proposed the creation of an “independent” election authority, while the second text was a revision of Algeria’s electoral law.
Presidential polls originally planned for July 4 were postponed due to a lack of viable candidates, plunging the country into a constitutional crisis as the 90-day mandate for Bensalah expired in early July.
The army’s high command has rejected any solution to the crisis other than presidential elections “in the shortest possible time”.
Algeria’s Culture Minister Meriem Merdaci resigned Saturday, following the deaths of five young music fans in a stampede at a packed concert by rapper Soolking in the capital, the president’s office announced.
It said Merdaci handed her resignation to interim president Abdelkader Bensalah “who accepted it”.
On Friday, prime minister Noureddine Bedoui fired the head of ONDA (the National Office of Copyright and Neighbouring Rights), the public authority in charge of organising concerts. An investigation has been opened.
Baghdad Bounedjah’s early goal propelled Algeria to a first Africa Cup of Nations title in 29 years after a fiery 1-0 victory over Sadio Mane’s Senegal in Friday’s final in Cairo.
Bounedjah gave Algeria a dream start in the second minute when his deflected shot looped over Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis, and it proved enough for the 1990 champions to lift the trophy on foreign soil for the first time.
“It’s incredible. The win is for the whole country,” Algeria goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi told beIN Sports. “We have to thank (coach) Djamel Belmadi. The situation was tricky in the past before he arrived.”
“It’s a bit hard to soak in right now but I think we’ll realise what we’ve done when we return home,” he added.
For Senegal, who lost to Algeria by the same scoreline in the group stage, the long wait for a first continental crown goes on as coach Aliou Cisse, the captain of the 2002 runners-up, again fell short in the final.
“We conceded the goal very early and on the whole I think we deserved to equalise but it didn’t happen,” said Cisse.
“I want to congratulate my players. We’ve been working together a long time for this Cup of Nations and we wanted it but tonight it didn’t go our way.”
It was the first title-decider to feature two African coaches since 1998, with Algeria boss Djamel Belmadi completing a whirlwind 12 months at the helm after inheriting a side that failed to make it out of the group stage two years ago.
“Without the players I am nothing. They are the main ones. I suppose the staff played its part in guiding the players but they applied the instructions incredibly well,” said Belmadi.
With defensive rock Kalidou Koulibaly suspended for Senegal, Salif Sane deputised at the back and Ismaila Sarr was recalled in attack, while Belmadi kept faith in the same side that overcame Nigeria with an injury-time free-kick from Riyad Mahrez.
Gomis finally beaten
Senegal had understandably feared the absence of Napoli star Koulibaly, banned after two bookings in the knockout rounds, although the towering Sane was desperately unlucky as Algeria grabbed the lead with scarcely a minute played.
As Bounedjah took aim from 20 yards his effort smacked off Sane and arced high into the air before dropping underneath the crossbar and beyond a static Gomis, sparking delirious celebrations from both players and fans, some of whom arrived for the final on military planes provided by the Algerian government.
It was the first time Gomis had conceded in almost 400 minutes in Egypt having replaced the injured Edouard Mendy ahead of Senegal’s final group game.
Henri Saivet, who missed a penalty in the 1-0 victory over Tunisia, tried to catch M’Bolhi out with a free-kick while Mbaye Niang fizzed a powerful drive just over as Senegal gradually showed signs of life before the half ended with both sets of players embroiled in a scuffle as they headed for the tunnel.
Senegal thought they had won a penalty on the hour when Cameroonian referee Alioum Alioum pointed to the spot for a suspected handball by Adlene Guedioura, but the official reversed his decision after a VAR review.
Niang rounded an advancing M’Bolhi after a searching ball through from Cheikhou Kouyate but the forward sliced wide of the target from a tough angle, with the Algeria ‘keeper then acrobatically tipping over a rasping drive from Youssouf Sabaly.
The Desert Foxes started to look jaded as Senegal brought on fresh legs in Krepin Diatta and Mbaye Diagne, but Youcef Belaili nearly made it 2-0 when his cross brushed the head of a defender and skimmed the roof of the net.
Sarr blazed over on the volley as Algeria clung on to their advantage in the closing minutes, the final whistle greeted by an outpouring of raw emotion as the North Africans emerged worthy winners of the expanded 24-team event.
Salif Sane returned in Senegal’s defence alongside Cheikhou Kouyate for Friday’s Africa Cup of Nations final against Algeria in Cairo with Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly suspended.
Sane partnered Koulibaly in Senegal’s opening game of the tournament but lost his place to captain Kouyate following an ankle injury in the 2-0 win over Tanzania.
Ismaila Sarr was also recalled after he was used off the bench in the semi-final victory over Tunisia, with Krepin Diatta the player to make way as Senegal attempt to lift the trophy for the first time.
Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi stuck with the same team that overcame Nigeria 2-1 to reach their first final since winning the tournament as hosts in 1990.
Starting line-ups for Friday’s Africa Cup of Nations final between Senegal and Algeria at Cairo International Stadium (kick-off 1900 GMT):
A total of 282 people were arrested in France after unrest following the Algerian football team’s qualification for the final of the Africa Cup of Nations, the interior ministry said Monday.
Riotous celebrations erupted around the country after Algeria beat Nigeria 2-1 in the semi-final. The arrests were made nationwide on Sunday evening, the ministry said.
Some of the arrests were also linked to unrest surrounding events marking France’s national day celebrations on Sunday.
Unruly scenes erupted in Paris, Marseille and Lyon. Fifty people were arrested in the French capital and there were incidents between football fans and police on the Champs-Elysees avenue.
Dozens of cars were torched overnight in the eastern city of Lyon.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner on Monday congratulated police and firemen for their “speedy reaction and professionalism which contained the violence and to the perpetrators” being apprehended.
Of those arrested, 249 people were in custody.
Last Thursday, when Algeria defeated Ivory Coast to reach the semi-finals, fans went on the rampage in central Paris, looting shops.
On the same day in the southern city of Montpellier, an Algerian football supporter celebrating his team’s win lost control of his car at high speed and ran into a family, killing a woman and seriously injuring her baby.
Paris and Marseille are home to large minority communities of Algerian origin. Football celebrations, with supporters brandishing large national flags, have on occasion been a source of tensions.
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr said Algeria were worthy winners after Riyad Mahrez’s last-gasp free-kick sent his team through to a first Africa Cup of Nations final in 29 years.
Manchester City winger Mahrez fired in from 20 yards with the last kick of the game in Cairo to clinch a 2-1 victory after Nigeria forward Odion Ighalo had canceled out a first-half own goal by William Troost-Ekong.
“It was a big fight until the last minute. Algeria did better in the first half than us but we came back in the second half and we conceded this goal in the last minute,” said Rohr.
“I think the players wanted to go to extra time and believed Algeria would be tired and they could win in it extra time.”
“I have to congratulate the players for a big fight against this very good team. They won it in the last minute and they deserved it,” he added.
Rohr again lauded the resilience of his team, which bounced back strongly to a shock loss to Madagascar by eliminating holders Cameroon and beating South Africa, but they had no time to respond to a stroke of genius from Mahrez.
“It was a wonderful match, but we lost it so we are not happy. We scored an own goal which was unlucky but we came back like throughout the tournament when there was something difficult against us,” he said.
Algeria led through a first-half own goal by William Troost-Ekong before Nigeria equalised with an Odion Ighalo penalty awarded after a VAR review, but Mahrez blasted in from 20 yards with the last kick of the match to send the Desert Foxes through to their first final since lifting the trophy in 1990.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Desert Foxes of Algeria will clash today in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations semi-final encounter at the Cairo international stadium in Egypt.
Three-time champions Nigeria are looking for their fourth title since winning their first on home soil at the expense of Algeria in 1980, while the Algerians are looking for their second crown since winning on home soil at the expense of Nigeria in 1990.
The Super Eagles dashed the hopes of Algerian players in 2017 after stopping them from qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, as they bashed the Foxes 3-1 in Uyo and tied the second leg in Constantine 1-1 before FIFA awarded the match to Algeria following the ineligible defender Abdullahi Shehu fielded by the Eagles.
Nigeria have been dogged in their approach, keeping their feet on the ground, cautious but able to smell opportunities to strike and able to swing games in their favour even towards the end. This strategy worked for Guinea, Cup holders Cameroon, South Africa, and Burundi.
Coach Gernot Rohr says defeat by Madagascar has rudely awakened his boys to the approach they must adopt to win each game, by not under-rating any team.
On the other hand, Algeria Coach Djamel Belmadi, stated it firmly on Saturday that his team are aiming for the trophy by paying the Super Eagles back after stopping them from reaching the 2018 World Cup.
An Algerian football supporter celebrating his team’s win lost control of his car and ran over a family in southern France overnight, killing a woman and seriously injuring her baby, a security official said.
The 21-year-old man was driving at high speed in the Mosson neighbourhood of southern city Montpellier on Thursday night, the official said, adding the driver had been taken into police custody.
The woman was walking with her one-year-old baby and 17-year-old daughter when the accident happened.
The baby suffered traumatic injuries and was rushed to hospital, said the official.
The 17-year-old had a slight ankle injury, the spokesman said.
“At the moment we are trying to determine the circumstances of this tragedy,” the spokesman said, adding there were “lots of people in the streets” following Algeria’s win over Ivory Coast in the African Cup of Nations which sent the team through to the semi-final.