4 March 2019

Algeria - Protesters Reject President's 'Compromise'

Photo: Unknown and Vikoula5/Wikimedia Commons
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika

Thousands of demonstrators have called on Algeria's Constitutional Council to reject the president's bid for a fifth term. President Bouteflika is thought to be in ailing health and is rarely seen in public.

The protests against Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's controversial attempt to run for a fifth consecutive term refused to let up on Monday, even as a lead opposition candidate withdrew from the race.

In a rare sign of discontent with the ruling administration, a prominent lawmaker also announced his resignation from parliament on Monday. Former Agriculture Minister Sidi Ferroukhi did not directly refer to Bouteflika in his statement on Facebook, but referred to the exceptional circumstances in Algeria at the moment.

Election officials said that 20 candidates had submitted papers to run for president by the deadline on Sunday. Bouteflika's campaign manager Abdeghani Zalene filed the paperwork on behalf of the ailing 82-year-old president, who promised that he would not serve a full term if re-elected.

Abdelaziz Belaid of the opposition Future Front party, who came in third in 2014's presidential ballot, said he was withdrawing his candidacy over concerns it would not be a fair election.

Newspapers: Bouteflika has 'contempt' for Algerians

But the thousands of protesters in the streets of Algiers on Monday rejected Bouteflika's attempted compromise. They called on the Constitutional Council, the agency in charge of accepting presidential bids, to refuse the president's candidacy.

Similar demonstrations were held throughout the country, including in the cities of Constantine and Jijel. Solidarity protests were also held in other French-speaking parts of the world, including Paris and Montreal.

Bouteflika has run the oil-rich North African nation for 20 years, several times pushing through constitutional amendments to extend presidential term limits. All but one of his four elections has been marred by allegations of widespread fraud and voter suppression. Bouteflika appears to be in poor health, as he is rarely seen in public and has not given a live address in more than two years.

The country has now been gripped by over a week of protests, in which at least one demonstrator was killed in clashes with police.

On Monday, most Algerian newspapers that were not funded by the government came out in opposition to Bouteflika's candidacy. The Al-Watan daily said it showed "contempt" for the Algerian people.

(AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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