Riot police block protesters during a demonstration in downtown Algiers, January 22, 2011. A small group of Algerian opposition supporters trying to hold a banned protest clashed with police in the capital and several people were injured, protest organizers and official media said on Saturday. Reuters

Amidst growing political unrest in Algeria, one of the country’s founding fathers has called for a peaceful change in government, accusing the present regime of incompetence.

Abdelhamid Mehri, the former secretary general of the ruling party, wrote an open letter (published by the press) to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika demanding widespread political reforms.

The voices calling for a peaceful change of this system are many. This change cannot be postponed any longer, he wrote.

I address myself to you in this letter in a particularly delicate and dangerous context, he wrote, adding that the current regime is incapable of solving the thorny problems of our country, which are multiple and complex, and even less so of preparing efficiently for the challenges of the future, which are even more arduous and serious.

Mehri, 85, also said the central question, which calls for a global and organized national effort, is that of setting up a regime that is truly democratic. He urged the liberation of large social categories trapped in the circle of exclusion and marginalization.

In addition, what is in common between Algeria and these countries (such as Tunisia and Egypt) is the very nature of the regimes, Mehri wrote. These regimes all show off a flashy democratic front but in practice, stop, by multiple means, very large categories of citizens from taking part effectively in the management of business.

The ruling National Liberation Front has been in power since Algeria gained its independence from France in 1962.

Mehri, who played a key role in independence, is also a former minister and ambassador to France.

Meanwhile, opposition groups are planning to protest in Algiers, the capital, on Saturday, despite a ban and in defiance promises by the president that emergency laws will soon be lifted.

Algeria is really on the road towards change. Our struggle goes well beyond the lifting of the state of emergency, said Fodil Boumala, a founder member of the National Coordination for Change and Democracy (CNCD). The next demonstration on Saturday is being prepared very well. There is less fear.”