Protests swell in Algeria on day Bouteflika due to declare re-election bid

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3 March 2019

Tens of thousands of protesters rallied anew in cities around Algeria on Sunday to demand President Abdelaziz Bouteflika step down just as he was due to declare his bid for a fifth term in April elections, witnesses and residents said.

 

Protest numbers were fast approaching the levels of Friday when demonstrators filled the center of the capital Algiers alone, in one of the biggest outpourings of dissent - rare in Algeria - since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

 

Bouteflika, 82, in shaky health for years, was due to submit his official election papers at the Constitutional Council in Algiers on Sunday, the deadline for candidates.

 

He did not have to do so in person, the state news agency APS said. Bouteflika, rarely seen in public since he suffered a stroke in 2013, was at the weekend still in Switzerland for unspecified medical checks, according to Swiss media.

 

Opponents of Bouteflika say is no longer fit to lead, citing his poor health and what they call chronic corruption and a lack of economic reforms to tackle high unemployment that exceeds 25 percent among people under the age of 30.

 

Analysts say the protesters, who began hitting the streets 10 days ago, lack leadership and organization in a country still dominated by veterans, like Bouteflika, of the 1954-62 independence war against France.

 

But traditionally weak and divided opposition and civic groups have called for protests to go on should Bouteflika, in power for 20 years, confirm his pursuit of re-election.

 

The government has played on fears among many Algerians of a return of bloodshed seen in the 1990s when an estimated 200,000 people were killed after Islamists took up arms when the military canceled elections they were poised to win.

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THE OPERATION IS BEING PERFORMED