Hundreds of Algerians protest against proposed energy law


Demonstrators carry national flags and shout slogans during a protest against a proposed new hydrocarbons law in Algiers, Algeria October 13, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Hundreds of Algerians protested in front of parliament on Sunday against a proposed energy law that they say the caretaker government has no right to pass.

The new law is aimed at attracting foreign investors to help Algeria strengthen its energy output, but would maintain a 49% limit on foreign ownership if passed into law by parliament.

Protesters said the law was intended by the caretaker government to secure the support of Western countries in a standoff over mass protests that have rocked Algeria for months. The government did not immediately comment.

Energy industry sources in Algeria say the proposed law should be more generous to investors, with greater tax incentives and lower customs duty.

Algeria's economy and state revenues are highly dependent on the energy sector, and foreign currency reserves have more than halved since oil prices began to drop in 2014.

The weekly mass protests since February have toppled veteran leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika and forced the authorities to detain many senior officials on corruption charges.

The army, which has emerged as the strongest power in Algeria since Bouteflika stepped down in April, hopes a presidential election panned for Dec. 12 will help quell the protests.

But demonstrators have said the vote cannot be free or fair if the military and senior officials tied to Bouteflika retain political power.

(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi, editing by Angus McDowall)

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