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Algeria PM sees ‘Arab plague’, no spring

Algeria's Secretary-General of the National Democratic Rally Ahmed Ouyahia (© 2009 AFP)

Algeria’s prime minister called Saturday for his country’s stability to be preserved in upcoming polls, arguing he could see no Arab Spring but rather a “plague” wrecking the region.

Speaking at a rally attended by around 3,000 people in Algiers on the penultimate day of the May 10 legislative election campaign, Ahmed Ouyahia criticised voices calling for an Arab Spring-style revolt in Algeria.

“It isn’t an Arab Spring which is sweeping the region but a plague, and there is confirmation of this everyday,” he said, citing “the colonisation of Iraq, the destruction of Libya, the partition of Sudan and the weakening of Egypt.”

Protests left five dead and hundreds wounded broke out in Algeria in January 2011, days after the beginning of the Tunisian uprising, which launched a wave of pro-democracy movements in the region known as the Arab Spring.

But the protests never developed into a broad movement challenging the regime, which soothed tempers by raising the minimum wage and passing a package of cautious reforms.

“We are telling our Arab brothers: ‘When our throats were being slit, you didn’t even come to extend your condolences, so don’t lecture us today’,” he said.

Ouyahia was referring to the decade of civil war that erupted in 1992 when the army interrupted legislative elections which the Islamists were poised to win. Some 200,000 people died in the conflict.

In countries affected by the Arab Spring such as Tunisia or Egypt, the elections that came after long-standing autocrats were toppled saw Islamist parties make huge gains.

Ouyahia is believed to be close to the military and a member of the so-called “eradicators” faction which advocates the toughest line against Islamism.

Algerians are called to elect their national assembly on May 10.

An Islamist alliance is hoping to benefit from the Arab Spring effect but observers say deep distrust for the political class could result in very low turnout.

Signature : ALGIERS (AFP)

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