Algerians in fresh protests calling for Bouteflika to quit

Algeria protests (Photo Credit: Al Jazeera)
Algeria protests (Photo Credit: Al Jazeera)

Thousands of Algerians resumed protests in the capital and other cities on Tuesday, calling on President Abdelaziz Boutelika to step down and rejecting his offer to not serve a full term after elections in April.

Tens of thousands of people have rallied in cities around Algeria, in the largest protests since the 2011 Arab Spring, calling on Bouteflika, 82, not to submit election papers for the April 18 polls.

The papers were filed on Sunday.

The unrest poses the biggest challenge yet to the ailing leader and the ruling elite made up of the ruling party, businessmen, the military and security services.

“Game over” read one poster.

“System – go away’’, said another, as students protested in cities including Constantine, Annaba and Blida.

The protests appear to lack leadership and organisation in a country still dominated by veterans of the 1954 to 1962 independence war against France, including Bouteflika.

On Tuesday, hundreds of students protested in cities including Constantine, Annaba and Blida.

Bouteflika, in power for 20 years, has not spoken in public since suffering a stroke in 2013.

Young Algerians, who are at the forefront of the protests want a new generation of leaders and have few attachments to the old guard.

After a decade-long Islamist insurgency that Bouteflika crushed early in his rule, Algerians generally tolerated a political system that left little room for dissent as a price to pay for relative peace and stability.

But Algeria’s mostly young population, almost 70 per cent of whom are aged below 30, are agitating for jobs, better services and an end to rampant corruption in a country that is one of Africa’s largest oil producers.

Bouteflika’s opponents say he is no longer fit to lead, citing his health and a lack of economic reforms to tackle high unemployment, which exceeds 25 per cent among people under 30.

Witnesses said the protests were mostly peaceful but scuffles broke out in the capital Algiers between police and protesters near the presidential palace.

One person died, according to a local official. Local media said it was a 60-year-old man, who suffered a heart attack.

State television said several protesters and policemen were wounded during clashes in Algiers.

News website TSA put the number of wounded at 63, citing official figures. It said 45 people were detained.

Large scale demonstrations – rarely seen in Algeria – against plans for Bouteflika to seek a fifth term in power in April elections began a week ago, but Friday saw the biggest turnout yet. (dpa/NAN)

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