Thousands of Algerians protest against Bouteflika's re-election bid

Reuters , Friday 22 Feb 2019

Algerians stage a protest against Algeria's president candidacy for a fifth term, on February 22, 2019 in the coastal city of Annaba (Photo: AFP)

Thousands of young Algerians took to the streets of the capital on Friday to protest against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s plans to seek a fifth term.

The 81-year old, in office since 1999, has said he will contest the April 18 presidential election, despite concerns over his health. He has been seen in public only a handful of times since suffering a stroke in 2013.

“No to Bouteflika and no to Said,” a crowed chanted while marching through the center of Algiers. The president’s youngest brother Said Bouteflika is a presidential adviser.

The protest was peaceful despite a heavy security presence.

“We and the security are brothers,” some protesters chanted.

The protest came after mosque preachers had warned in Friday prayers against demonstrating, warning of violence.

Bouteflika’s re-election bid comes after the ruling FLN party picked him as its official presidential candidate. Several political parties, trade unions and business organizations have already said they would support his re-election.

He is expected to easily win the vote as the opposition remains weak and divided.

But many young people feel disconnected from an elite made up of veteran fighters from Algeria’s 1954-1962 independence war with France.

His re-election would provide short-term stability for the FLN, the army and business tycoons, and postpone a potentially difficult succession.

Bouteflika remains popular with many Algerians, who credit him with ending a long civil war by offering an amnesty to former Islamist fighters.

Algeria is a key gas supplier to Europe and an ally of the United States in the fight against Islamist militants in the Sahel region of North Africa.

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