Algerian lawyers march against Bouteflika election bid

AFP , Thursday 7 Mar 2019

Lawyers protest, Algeria
Lawyers hold banners as they chant slogans during a protest to denounce an offer by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run in elections next month but not to serve a full term if re-elected, in Algiers, Algeria March 7, 2019 (Photo: Reuters)

Hundreds of Algerian lawyers staged a demonstration Thursday in Tunis against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's re-election bid, saying his ill health should disqualify him from the race.

Around 1,000 lawyers breached police cordons to march on the Constitutional Council, the body responsible for approving the candidacy of the 21 people registered to run in the poll.

The 82-year-old Bouteflika uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, and his bid to secure a fifth term at the April 18 election has sparked waves of protests.

"We are asking the Constitutional Council to assume its responsibilities," protester Ahmed Dahim, a member of the Bar Association of Algiers, told AFP as colleagues chanted "No to the fifth mandate".

"This candidacy is inadmissible," he said, adding Bouteflika's re-election bid should be rejected because there was no way he could have obtained the required medical certificate.

The Constitutional Council must decide on the candidates by March 14.

Bouteflika has been in Switzerland since February 24 for what the presidency has described as "routine medical tests".

A date for his return to Algeria has not yet been announced.

The announcement on February 10 that Bouteflika would stand for a fifth term has unleashed major protests in the North African country.

On Wednesday, the medical association said health certificates submitted by presidential hopefuls must respect "medical ethics" and be drafted by doctors who are members of the association.

Despite a ban dating back to 2001, demonstrations have been staged almost daily in the capital Algiers since a massive rally on February 22.

Journalists also began to gather on Thursday for a protest at Press Freedom Square in downtown Algiers, as they did on the previous week, media reports said.

They have been protesting over "pressures" being exerted over their coverage of the demonstrations against Bouteflika's re-election.

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