Algeria students demonstrate against 5th term for Bouteflika

AFP , Tuesday 26 Feb 2019

Members of the security forces stand guard as Algerian students protest on the main campus of the University of Algiers against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term, on February 26, 2019. (AFP)

Hundreds of students protested on the main campus of the University of Algiers on Tuesday against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term, in the latest rally against his candidacy.

University guards locked the gates of the city centre campus to prevent students from spilling onto the streets of the capital, which had seen a massive anti-Bouteflika protest on Friday, AFP reporters said.

Around 500 students, many of them waving Algerian flags, shouted "No to a fifth term" and "Bouteflika get out", as security forces, including riot police, stood outside the campus gates.

The protest -- staged under the banner "not in my name" -- came in response to calls to demonstrate posted online after 11 student unions expressed their support for Bouteflika.

"We're organising a demonstration to show that these 11 unions do not represent us," 23-year-old civil engineering student Hakim told AFP at another campus near Algiers.

University professors have urged colleagues to back the students in a statement stressing the "duty to emulate the voice of the people who are rising against a real threat for our future and the stability of the country".

The protest comes a day after Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said the "ballot box will decide in a peaceful and civilised way" if Bouteflika gets a fifth term.

Voting in the presidential election "will take place in less than two months, and everyone will make their choice freely", Ouyahia said in televised comments Monday that were the first official reaction to the protests.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets on Friday, including in the capital Algiers where demonstrations are forbidden, to vent their anger at Bouteflika's bid to extend his 20 years in power.

The scale of the demonstrations took many in the North African state by surprise.

A follow-up call for protests by a small opposition group drew hundreds in central Algiers Sunday, but they were met by a heavy police deployment and tear gas.

On Monday, around a hundred lawyers protested in court against a fifth term, waving placards that they were "with the people".

Bouteflika, who uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, announced on February 10 that he will seek re-election in the April 18 vote.

The 81-year-old leader flew to Switzerland on Sunday for what the presidency called "routine medical checks" ahead of the election.

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