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  • Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Algeria Friday to protest against the candidacy for a fifth term of the president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in a demonstration that overflowed the streets of the center of the capital.

    Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Algeria Friday to protest against the candidacy for a fifth term of the president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in a demonstration that overflowed the streets of the center of the capital. | Photo: EFE

Published 2 March 2019

An unprecedented wave of protests has rocked the country since last Friday in opposition to the 82-year-old incumbent president's fifth candidacy bid.

A total of 183 people were injured during protests across Algeria Friday against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for election to a fifth term -- second since he suffered a stroke -- according to the health ministry.

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In Algeria's biggest anti-government rallies since the Arab Spring eight years ago, tens of thousands of protesters called on the infirmed, 82-year-old Bouteflika to abandon plans to seek re-election in April’s presidential vote. The protests were mostly peaceful however scuffles between police and protesters broke out late Friday near the presidential palace in the capital Algiers. 

Large-scale demonstrations, rarely seen in Algeria with its omnipresent security services, began a week ago, though Friday saw the biggest turnout yet. Almost 200 people have been injured according to state media, APS.

Bouteflika suffered a stroke in 2013 and has been seen in public only a few times since. His re-election bid stoked resentment among Algerians who believe he is not fit to run the major oil- and gas-producing country.

Bouteflika's campaign manager said Tuesday he would submit his official application Sunday, the deadline for candidates. Bouteflika, who turned 82 last Saturday, has not directly addressed the protests.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika joined the socialist National Liberation Front early on in his youth and later fought with the National Liberation Army against French colonial rule where he became an officer.

After liberation in 1962 he held several ministerial posts before becoming the President of United Nations session of 1974 where he was critical of U.S. policies around the world. Bouteflika returned to Algeria from political exile in 1984 and rejoined the FLN and then was tapped to lead the country after the 1999 7 years after the 1991 coup that ousted the Islamist party from power. His presidency saw the end of the civil war that followed the coup as Islamists attempted to regain power. 

While the FLN continues to receive the support of many Algerians due to its socialist and nationalist policies, many others have been critical and disillusioned as the country has been run by the same group of veterans since the 1954-1962 independence war with France.

Algerians also stress the fact that they fear political instability similar to that in neighboring Libya after the ouster and killing of President Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO intervention in 2012.

A weak and divided opposition faces high hurdles in mounting an electoral challenge. Since the long-ruling FLN party again picked Bouteflika as its presidential candidate, several parties, trade unions and business groups have endorsed him.

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