Algeria police brace for further anti-Bouteflika demos

AFP , Wednesday 6 Mar 2019

Hundreds of students gather to protest the decision of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run for a fifth term, in Algiers, Tuesday, March 5, 2019 (Photo: AP)

Police deployed Wednesday in the Algerian capital with water cannons, a day after thousands of students demonstrated against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's re-election bid.

Although the city remained calm, security forces were bracing for further protests on Friday as demonstrators have vowed to take to the streets until the 82-year-old leader resigns.

Half a dozen police vans and a water cannon were deployed near Algiers' iconic main post office, where on Tuesday thousands of students rallied against the president.

There was a similar deployment at the nearby Place Audin which has also drawn thousands of demonstrators since the protest movement first erupted on February 22.

On Tuesday students in the capital chanted "Hey Bouteflika, there won't be a fifth term" and pledged to hold further protests.

Later army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah, who is known to be loyal to Bouteflika, delivered a speech slamming unnamed parties who he said want to return to the "painful years" of Algeria's 1992-2002 civil war.

He vowed to guarantee the country's "security and stability".

El Watan newspaper on Wednesday noted that Gaid Salah did not use his usual "bellicose" tone while the Liberte daily said he chose a "peaceful discourse".

The country's medical association meanwhile piled pressure on the Constitutional Court, which validates presidential bids, concerning Bouteflika's health.

The leader, who suffered a stroke in 2013 and is rarely been seen in public, has been in Switzerland since February 24 for what the presidency has described as "routine medical tests".

Bouteflika's bid to stand in the April 18 election was submitted on his behalf Sunday to the Constitutional Council by his campaign manager.

The medical association said health certificates submitted by presidential hopefuls -- in line with the electoral law -- must respect "medical ethics" and be drafted by doctors who are members of the association.

The bar association of Tizi Ouzou, east of Algiers, also put pressure on the council in an letter published by local newspapers.

It said that "physical and mental" wellbeing was a necessary condition for candidates who wish to accede to the "supreme office" of a state, in a clear reference to Bouteflika's failing health.

Bouteflika promised Sunday that if he wins the April poll he will organise a "national conference" to set a date for further elections which he would not contest.

But Algerians weary of his two-decade rule angrily dismissed his promise as an insult.

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