3 March 2019

Algeria: Protests in Algeria As President Poised to Run for 5th Term

Photo: RFI
President Bouteflika

Anti-government demonstrations broke out as the deadline loomed for Bouteflika to file for his contested fifth run at the presidency. The "living dead" president is rarely seen in public.

Hundreds of police and soldiers were deployed in Algeria's capital Algiers on Sunday as President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was set to officially register to run for a highly controversial fifth term in office. The country has been gripped by widespread protests all week over Bouteflika's decision, with at least one protestor being killed in clashes with police.

A crowd of mostly students in the center of the capital kept the days of protest going, chanting "Bouteflika go away!" There were reports of similar demonstrations taking place in towns and cities throughout the country.

The 'living dead' president

Bouteflika has been president of Algeria since 1999, having pushed twice for constitutional amendments in order to run for another term. All but one of his elections has been marred by accusations of widespread fraud or voter suppression.

Now 82-years-old, the president is rarely seen in public. His last televised speech to the nation was broadcast in June 2017. Frequently ill, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had to cancel her last planned trip to Algeria when Bouteflika was reportedly suffering a lung infection. Last week, he traveled to Switzerland for medical appointments. According to the Economist, critics joke that he is the "living dead" president.

While Algeria did experience some Arab Spring-inspired protests in 2011, the government was able to avoid the unrest that followed in many other countries by financing widespread wage increases across the country using the national oil and gas revenues.

Brother: Protester killed by the 'ruling gang'

When he announced on February 10 that he would be seeking a fifth term, demonstrators began organizing on social media to demand he finally step down. People called for his photo to be taken down from administrative buildings and a large poster of him was ripped down in Algiers.

On Friday, a man in his 50s, Hassan Ben Khedda, died during a protest in Algiers. The son of a late Algerian politician, the government issued a statement saying his death would be investigated, but his brother said Hassan Ben Khedda had been killed by the "ruling gang and its thugs."

At least 56 police and 183 civilians have been injured in the protests, and 45 people have been arrested, according to Algeria's security services.

es/jlw (dpa, Reuters)

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