Rabat – In yet another interesting development in the six-month-long anti-system protests in Algeria, demonstrators in Algiers were on the verge of storming the private residence of General Ahmed Gaid Salah, the chief of staff of the Algerian armed forces and current Defense Minister.
But they were eventually prevented from reaching the villa, derailed by a strong security contingent deployed to secure the place.
According to local reports, protesters’ anger with their country’s political establishment has grown in recent weeks amid concerns that the regime has no genuine will to retreat from political life once the transitional period is over.
Protesters are aiming for a radical, complete rupture from the establishment that has ruled over the country for the past two to three decades. Meanwhile, the current regime is seen as plotting continuity, with a figurehead candidate prepared and sponsored to be voted in power.
This, according to analysts, would mean that the old regime would be pulling the strings from behind the curtains even long after elections are held.
In the past weeks, General Salah has become the most prominent face of the continuity which protesters are determined to root out.
Yesterday, in the thirtieth week of the ongoing protests yesterday, a strong contingent of security officers was deployed at the villa of General Salah in the Annaba neighborhood in Algiers, where the general spent his day, several on-site observers commented on social media.
The unusually strong military presence aimed at preventing crowds of demonstrators from storming General Salah’s private villa, reports concurred.
The news comes amid abiding perceptions in the ranks of protesters that the general could be the most serious obstacle standing in the way to the radical generational change of political power that demonstrators are seeking.
In his latest speeches, the general has called for elections to be held as early as mid-December. This, he has argued, is to end the political and social impasse in which the country has been engulfed for six months. “The situation can no longer tolerate delay,” General Salah recently said.
For protesters, however, General Salah pushing for early elections smells of ulterior motive from the current regime. Algerians, the Washington Post reported earlier today, “don’t want an election forced on them by a regime they decry, and see their uprising as a chance for a wholesale democratic rebirth.”
In an analysis published earlier this week by the African Arguments, Algerian analyst Faten Aggad made the same point. Aggad argued that the vast majority of Algerians regard “quick elections” as a “trap.”
Aggad wrote: “Gaid Salah’s preference for speedy elections is well-known. Since Algeria’s huge protest movement forced President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign after 20 years in office this April, the ruling establishment has repeatedly argued for quick elections.”
The suggestion is that the establishment sees in early elections an opportunity to have its figurehead candidate win over an ill-prepared and potentially divided opposition.