President Abdelaziz Bouteflika promised through official APS news agency that he would lift the state of emergency which has been in force for the last 19 years in Algeria "in the very near future," Government opponents, who have been inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have been pushing for its end. The promise to lift the banned on public demonstrations is seen as a bid stave off unrest.
Opposition groups in Algeria are calling a major protest on February 12 and they have recently made repeal of the emergency powers one of their main demands. As the anti-government forces in Tunisia have given an example, hundreds have been willing to publicly protest the ban on public gatherings in Algeria.
The state of emergency was imposed in 1990 after brutal fighting with Islamic fighters left tens of thousands dead but many people feel that the government's justification for holding such extraordinary powers has long pasted.
According to France24 Bouteflika told a meeting of ministers:
"In order to stop any unfounded speculation on this subject, I ordered the government to immediately draw up appropriate provisions which will allow the state to continue the fight against terrorism until its conclusion, and with the same effectiveness," the agency quoted him as saying.
Bouteflika said protest marches, banned under the state of emergency, would be permitted everywhere except the capital.
"The capital is an exception in this respect for well-known reasons of public order and certainly not in order to prevent any form of expression," he said.
Bouteflika also said the government should adopt new measures to promote job creation, and that Algerian television and radio, which are controlled by the state, should give airtime to all political parties, the official APS news agency reported.
Many rulers throughout North Africa and the Middle East are looking at the recent uprisings of the people in Tunisia and Egypt and taking steps to quiet the opposition in their countries. It remains to be seen if Bouteflika's promise will be kept.
And while the President has promised to lift the ban "in the very near future" the government warned on Wednesday that it would be in effect for the planned protest. The Washington Post reports:
Opposition leaders, human rights groups, unions, students and jobless workers are planning a march Feb. 12 in Algiers, the capital. They want the government to lift the state of emergency that has been in effect since 1992, end its ban on new political parties and generally be more transparent.
But Deputy Prime Minister Nouredine Yazid Zerhouni reminded organizers Wednesday that the march is "officially banned."
"Those who are calling for this march must take responsibility for damage or for things getting out of hand," Zerhouni told reporters, adding that the government had no plans to lift its state of emergency
So the stage is set for a revolutionary confrontation between the authoritarian Algeria government and it's freedom loving people on Feburary 12th.
A week ago we wrote of the Algerian opposition in:
2011-01-27 Algerians plan big protest rally for February 9