Health sector employees have begun an open strike (Arabic) on February 9 in order to pressure the government to answer to their demands in writing. This came after Algerian President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika had promised to grant more freedoms and do away with some unpopular policies on February 3 in a move designed to preempt protests planned for February 12 in the country’s capital, Algiers. The president’s proposals include new government initiatives to offer all political parties airtime on state television and radio. In addition, he announced the lifting of the state of emergency that has been in place since 1992, and promised to take measures in order to ease unemployment.
After the removal of the emergency law under the new policies, protests will be permitted in all parts of Algeria except the capital, Algiers, and its surrounding areas. The President said (Arabic) in a cabinet meeting on February 3 that protests were banned in the capital due to reasons “related to the regime,” and that the laws were not meant to curb freedom of expression.
Minister of Labor, Employment, and Social Security Tayeb Louh stated (Arabic) on February 7 that the government has implemented policies and offered incentives to fight unemployment, emphasizing that job-seekers should make efforts to work with employers and the government in order to find jobs. On February 6 Algerian newspaper ech-Chaab described (Arabic) a plan in which the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research aims to work with various public institutions towards increasing job creation for young college graduates.
In response to the restriction on protests in the capital, spokesperson for the Algerian opposition party Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) Mohsen Belabes said that the demonstrations planned for the 12th will still occur because the state has failed to meet the full extent of their demands. Previously, a banned January 22 RCD protest had attracted some demonstrators but was quickly snuffed out by riot police. In a February 6 statement, head of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights Mustapha Bouchachi announced (Arabic) that the protests will go on as planned, in spite of the ban, stating that the Algerian government had not yet tried to stop the protests but had asked the opposition to “reformulate” demands.