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  • People protest against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's plan to extend his 20-year rule by seeking a fifth term in April elections, in Algiers downtown, Algeria, March 3, 2019.

    People protest against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's plan to extend his 20-year rule by seeking a fifth term in April elections, in Algiers downtown, Algeria, March 3, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 March 2019

Bouteflika’s campaign manager said on Sunday that the president would run in the April 18 election, defying calls for him to quit at the end of his current term.

Students determined to pursue Algeria’s biggest anti-government protests in years boycotted classes on Monday to denounce an offer by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run in elections next month but not to serve a full term if re-elected.

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Hundreds staged small demonstrations in several cities outside the capital, footage posted online showed, continuing almost two weeks of marches and rallies against the 82-year-old leader’s intent to seek a fifth term.

A group of opposition leaders and political activists called for a postponement of the election.

Bouteflika’s political survival may hinge on how members of his FLN party— react if protests keep growing.

His opponents say he is no longer fit to lead, citing his ill health and what they call chronic corruption and a lack of economic reforms. The president, rarely seen in public since a stroke in 2013, appeared in a wheelchair in Algiers in April last year but is now reported to be in a Swiss hospital.

Shops were open in Algiers on Monday but students did not show up for classes at Bab Ezzouar University in Algiers, the biggest in the oil-producing North African country.

Several other university campuses in Algiers were deserted.

“We are not going to study. This is a decision we have taken yesterday,” Amina, a 21-year-old student, told Reuters.

Hundreds of students marched in Blida, about 40 kilometers south of Algiers, shouting, “No new term, no new term!”

Security forces have sought to contain protests but there was no sign of the military.

But discontent has grown among some as falling global prices for oil and gas hit the economy in recent years.

On Sunday, In a message to the nation read by his campaign director Abdelghani Zaalane, Bouteflika, who is running for his fifth presidential term, said that if re-elected, he would organize new presidential elections ahead of schedule in which he would not run for, in a bid to guarantee a smooth transfer of power.

The president also said if re-elected, he would "organize an inclusive conference open for all tendencies to discuss freely new political, social and economy reforms."

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