Algeria must implement real democracy and stop repression of independent trade unions and civil society, says IndustriALL Global Union, as President Abdelaziz Bouteflika dropped his bid for a fifth term after weeks of demonstrations across the country.
The announcement came after thousands of workers, including members of IndustriALL affiliate, SNATEG, took part in a general strike on 10 and 11 March in protest at the ailing 82-year-old’s attempt to run for office.
The 18 April presidential elections in the country have been suspended but it is not known when Bouteflika will stand down.
IndustriALL’s assistant general secretary, Kemal Özkan, said:
“Algeria urgently needs a democracy with rules and institutions that meet the demands of the people, particularly workers. In the last 20 years under Bouteflika, the Algerian people have suffered so much. Civil society, democratic organizations and free trade unions have faced many challenges, repression and intimidation. We stand in solidarity with our affiliate SNATEG, their allies and the Algerian people who fight for democracy, dignity and fundamental rights.”
The country’s capital, Algiers, was brought to a standstill on Sunday as no trams, trains, busses or metros circulated the city. Hundreds of students also marched in the streets to vent their frustration with the government.
SNATEG, which represents workers at state-owned gas and electricity company, SONELGAZ, said a very high percentage of SONELGAZ workers joined the strike, while workers from the railways and agri-industrial sectors also downed tools.
SNATEG has been under constant attack from the Algerian authorities, which have tried to crush the independent energy union by sacking its members and persecuting union leaders through the courts.
The general strike, which was to last five days, has been called off but unions will join opposition groups and civil society in a march calling for a complete break with the current system and a new Republic, planned for Friday 15 March.
Bouteflika returned to Algeria on 10 March, after spending two-weeks at a hospital in Geneva, Switzerland. He has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013.
Some prominent opposition figures in Algeria have warned that the postponement of the elections violates article 110 of the Constitution, which only allows the extension of the presidency in the case of war. They have voiced their support for the 15 March rally.