Washington / Morocco Board News -- If the Moroccan authorities have agreed to let anti-government protesters hold a rally on February 20, the Algerian government seems less self-assured to allow Algerian non-governmental organizations march on February 12, in Algiers.
With all the talks of the soon to be announced lifting of the State of Emergency in Algeria, President Bouteflika along with the Algerian Military establishment are still adamant in their refusal to let Algerians protest against the regime.
Watching the fast moving events in Egypt, the Algerian Military, the true ruler in Algiers, is jumpy and on edge with the real possibility of a spread of the Tunisian fever that led to the removal of President Ben Ali in Tunis.
The Algerian government has officially announced that the march that is planned for Saturday, February 12 in Algiers is “banned”. The demonstration that was called by opposition political parties, unions, and other civic organizations seems to frighten the Algerian establishment especially in the aftermath of the violence that accompanied the popular rally in Algiers that was sponsored by the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) in January.
Yet, a repeat of the January widespread riots that shook Algeria to the core remains a source of concerns for the Bouteflika government. Marches and public demonstrations have been outlawed in the Algerian capital since June 2001 when the state of emergency went into effect in the country.
The Algerian government ban on the planned march has hardened the opposition in Algeria making a showdown between the security forces and marchers likely to turn violent. Algerian independent media are reporting on another massive deployment of police and anti-riots forces all around the capital Algiers in anticipation of confrontations with potential demonstrations. Last month, the Algerian authorities deployed more than 10000 police officers around Algiers in order to prevent the RCD march.
Despite news stories reporting the imminent repeal of the state of emergency in Algeria, President Bouteflika endorsed the ban on the February 12 march. On the other hand, the president of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights among several democracy and human rights activists has decried the “hypocrisy” of the Algerian government.
The National Committee for Change and Democracy, a coalition of opposition and nongovernmental groups that are sponsoring the march, insists on marching into Martyrs' Square in the heart of Algiers as a way to reference to the Egyptian protests in “Tahrir” square in Cairo. Such allusions are making the Algerian military nervous and uneasy with any possible “unintended consequences” of the upcoming march.
The Algerian opposition considers the Military’s refusal to let Algerian voice their legitimate grievances as “an attempt by the authorities to weaken the dynamics of civic change,” and “a stab at further dividing the opposition groups.”
Some European observers predict the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutionary wave to sweep the Algerian Military backed government. Other analysts, noting the weakness and the disorganization of the Algerian opposition forces, foresee the survival of the Military controlled political establishment in Algiers, albeit weak and fragile. However, most political forecasters predict a long period of political, social and ethnic strife in Algeria, unless real democratic and economic reforms are implemented.