Algeria’s government yesterday declared itself ready for talks with protesters seeking rapid political change, saying it sought a ruling system based on “the will of the people” after opposition groups rejected proposed reforms as inadequate.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Monday reversed a decision to seek a fifth term in the face of weeks of mass rallies by protesters fed up with authoritarian rule and decades of economic and political stagnation.
But the initiative by Bouteflika, who also delayed elections and said a conference would be held to discuss political changes, has failed to satisfy many Algerians who continue to want power to move to a younger generation with fresh ideas.
“Dialogue is our duty. Our top priority is to bring together all Algerians,” Deputy Prime Minister Ramtane Lamamra told state radio. “The new system will be based on the will of the people,” he said, adding participants in a conference to write a new constitution would include mainly young people and women.
One prominent protest leader said talks were not on the agenda, at least for now. “We refuse to negotiate transition with the regime. No negotiations,” university professor Fodil Boumala told Reuters.
“The balance of power is on our side, let’s strengthen our movement. We need to maintain pressure for up to three weeks.”
Earlier, Armed Forces Chief of Staff and Deputy Defense Minister Ahmed Gaed Salah told Ennahar TV the army would preserve Algeria’s security “in all circumstances and conditions”.
Tens of thousands of people from all social classes have demonstrated over the last three weeks against corruption, unemployment and a ruling class dominated by the military and veterans of the 1954-62 independence war against France.