March 10, 2020 / 5:32 PM / 19 days ago

Algeria faces 'unprecedented' multi-dimensional crisis: PM

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algeria’s prime minister said on Tuesday the country faced an unprecedented “multi-dimensional crisis” and urged people to make fewer demands of the government and reduce their street presence.

FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator wearing a face mask gestures during an anti-government protest in Algiers, Algeria February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina/

The comments by Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad were an apparent reference to a year of weekly mass protests, which are continuing even though they have already led to many changes at the top of the ruling hierarchy.

The demonstrators are demanding wholesale changes in the power structure and the army’s withdrawal from politics.

An oil market crash has followed years of growing economic strain in Algeria as lower energy prices since 2014 and falling hydrocarbons output have hit state coffers.

“It would be wiser to reduce the tendency to make demands and the overblown occupation of public roads, which only aggravate the current situation more,” Djerad told state news agency APS.

The Algerian authorities have in public mostly praised the mass protests as a national revival, while simultaneously putting pressure on the demonstrators through a heavy police presence and arrests.

In addition to the mass protests that take place each Friday, there have been smaller demonstrations demanding better living standards and public services.

“Given the seriousness of the current economic and social situation, all parties are expected to be mobilized to get out of this multi-dimensional crisis,” Djerad told state news agency APS.

Elected in December last year in a vote largely rejected by demonstrators, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has said repeatedly he will meet the protest movement’s demands with changes to the constitution.

He has also pledged steps to improve living standards, build more schools and construct better transport infrastructure around the country.

The government has approved a 9.2% cut in public spending for this year compared with 2019 but kept subsidy policy unchanged in a bid to avoid social unrest.

Algeria subsidies almost everything from basic foodstuffs to fuel, housing and medicine.

Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed, editing by Angus McDowall and Timothy Heritage

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