ALGERIA: Opposition vows to take to the streets despite promises of reform
Algerian opposition activists are not impressed by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who announced on Thursday plans to lift the 19-year state of emergency "very soon" even as he used the powers granted him by the emergency law to ban protest marches in the capital.
"I don't think this government is serious about implementing democracy in Algeria," Rachid Malawi, head of the independent union of civil servants, told Reuters.
Malawi affirmed his and other opposition groups' intention to march through Algiers on Feb. 12 demanding greater political freedom and an unconditional and immediate lifting of the state of emergency.
Bouteflika appears to be taking a hint from the recent popular uprisings across the Arab world that successfully ousted former Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine ben Ali and are mounting pressure on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down.
Bouteflika has managed to consolidate power since assuming the presidency in 1999 using the threat of civil war and Islamic fundamentalism to cow the public into submission and win backing from the West.
Algeria, a close ally of the United States, has seen sporadic clashes between protesters and security forces since early January.
--Meris Lutz in Beirut
Photo: Algerian riot police clash with protesters in the Amel district of Oran on Jan. 6, 2011. Credit: STR / AFP / Getty Images