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Africa

Tens of thousands protest in Algiers against Bouteflika's bid for fifth term

media Protesters in Algers in support of no fifth term for Bouteflika , March 1st, 2019 Hamdi Baala

Tens of thousands have come out onto the streets in the Algerian capital in a final push to stop President Abdelaziz Bouteflika from running for a fifth term in upcoming elections.

Following on from last week’s demonstrations, Friday's protests were seen not only in the capital Algiers but in other major cities such as Oran, Constantine and Tizi Ouzou.

Protesters in the capital gathered after Friday prayers, to attend what was dubbed the "million man march", ahead of Sunday's deadline for candidates to declare themselves. 

Mouwatana

The main movement behind the call for the protests has been Mouwatana, an umbrella group of political parties, association and independent people.

“There were lots of women and men attending today’s protest” in Algiers said Habib Brahmia, the director of communication for the political party Jil Jadid and a member of the communication for Mouwatana.

Speaking to RFI from Algiers by phone, he said the protest “began at 1:30 pm at the Place du Premier and was meant to go to the Places des Martyrs”.

He said “no problems were encountered with police; not one act of violence.”

Protesters were seen handing out flowers to riot police to prove they wanted to maintain a peaceful demonstration.

However, a live twitter-feed from Khaled Drareni, a freelance journalist in Algiers, posted videos of confrontations between police and protesters.

Videos also showed teargas being used by security officials, as was the case last week.

According to AFP, protesters were met by heavy tear gas as they tried to enter the Government Palace which houses the prime minister’s offices.

Bouteflika seeks a fifth term

What initially began as a push to stop Bouteflika from running for a fifth term has turned into a push for the end of the current regime that has been in power since 1999 when he was elected.

“Algerians are protesting against Abdelalaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term, despite his poor state of health. That is the main demand," explains Hamdi, an Algiers-based journalist. "The other demand is a protest against the entire regime. They are demanding that the regime goes away."

"They are protesting the ludicrousness of an ailing man who partakes in election for a fifth term," says Yasmine Allouche, an Algerian national herself living abroad as a researcher for TRT specialising in Algeria.

"He’s held office since 1999. He amended the constitution to run for a third term in 2009 and now you're seeing a fifth term of someone who is clearly incapable of ruling. So essentially this is a people’s movement to say enough is enough”

To date, Habib Brahmia says not a word has been uttered, neither by Bouteflika himself – who is currently in Switzerland undergoing medical exams – nor by Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia.

Continued protests

Despite the protests that have been held both in and outside Algeria, Bouteflika’s campaign director says the president will formally hand in his candidacy to meet the Sunday deadline.

Brahmia says if that is the case, protesters will likely hit the streets once again the same day, or the very next day.

A directive issued on Friday by the Ministry of Communication reportedly sent a directive to all Algerian television channels banning them from broadcasting live images of demonstrations across the country.

NetBlocks, an internet observatory, also noted that Algeria’s internet had been disrupted “at opposition flashpoints outside Algiers”.

It added that since Thursday 20:00 GMT, multiple networks had been intermittently offline “affecting several regions in and around Algiers”.

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