Tens of thousands protested across Algeria on Friday in the biggest rallies yet against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term.
The march in the capital Algiers was slowed to a near-crawl by the huge numbers taking part, despite the defiant leader’s warning of the risk of ‘chaos’.
The crowds were also swelled by women marking International Women’s Day and chanting ‘No fifth term – hey, Bouteflika!’
Algerian protesters take selfies and wave flags during a protest against the fifth term of Abdelaziz Bouteflika in the capital Algiers on Friday
An Algerian protester holds a placard during a protest against the fifth term of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been in power since 1999
An Algerian youth carries a tear gas canister fired by anti-riot policemen on the fringes of a demonstrate in the capital Algiers
A woman gestures during a protest against Algeria’s ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whose warning of a risk of ‘chaos’ did not deter tens of thousands of protesters up and down the country
A festive crowd of thousands of protesters marched through central Algiers on Friday to protest President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s hold on power
Waving Algeria’s green-white-and-red flags, men and women converged on the city’s landmark Grand Post Office square after weekly prayers.
‘The people are here, from all social classes, from the youngest to the eldest, everyone is saying “no to a fifth term, please, leave, you won’t even be judged”,’ said Kamel, a 37-year-old protester in the capital.
The police fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse those who tried to force their way through a police cordon that was blocking access to a road leading towards the presidency.
While demonstrators dispersed calmly as darkness fell, small groups of young people clashed with the police.
Protesters from all over Algeria took to the streets in what have been the biggest demonstrations since the 2011 Arab spring
The Algerian Preisdent, 82-year-old Abdelaziz Bouteflika has announced on 19 February he will be running for a fifth term in presidential elections
A protester holding a green and white Algerian flag clashes with anti-riot police during the protest against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Algeria’s ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika (pictured in November 2017) announced in February he would seek a fifth term in April elections
The unrest left 112 members of the security forces injured, according to police, who said they had arrested 195 people suspected of ‘vandalism’.
The overall atmosphere through the day was calm and festive, and numerous people attended with their children.
Huge crowds – again far surpassing those seen the previous Friday – also protested in the second and third cities of Oran and Constantine, local journalists said.
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A journalist in Oran said the whole city ‘is out (on the streets)… this has never been seen before’.
Major demonstrations were reported in other cities across the country by security sources, Algerian media and social networks.
In a message released on Thursday night, Bouteflika – who uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since a 2013 stroke – warned that troublemakers may try to infiltrate the demonstrations.
Anti-riot police aim weapons at people protesting against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in Algiers, yesterday
Despite a ban dating back to 2001, demonstrations have been staged almost daily in Algiers since a massive rally two weeks ago
Algerian protesters shout slogans during a demonstration on Friday in which 200 protesters were arrested and 112 security personnel injured
‘Many of our fellow citizens’ have demonstrated across the North African country ‘to peacefully express their views’, he said.
‘However, we must call for vigilance and caution in case this peaceful expression is infiltrated by some insidious party… which could cause chaos,’ he said, without mention of the demands that he abandon his bid to seek re-election on April 18.
Bouteflika flagged the risk of a return to the ‘national tragedy’ of Algeria’s decade-long civil war in the 1990s and of the ‘crises and tragedies caused by terrorism’ in neighbouring countries.
The head of state has been in Switzerland since February 24 for what the presidency describes as ‘routine medical tests’, and a date for his return home has not yet been announced.
More than 180 people want to run for president of Algeria in the April election, amid growing uncertainty about whether President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, infirm following a stroke, is fit for yet another term after 20 years in charge of this gas-rich North African nation
People clash with anti-riot police holding batons and shields during the protest against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in Algiers
A festive crowd of thousands of protesters marched through central Algiers to protest President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s hold on power. The protesters are challenging Bouteflika’s fitness to run for a fifth term in next month’s election
Security forces help an injured officer during the protest in which 112 members of the anti-riot police were injured on Friday
Swiss police said Rachid Nekkaz – a businessman and political activist opposed to Bouteflika – was arrested on Friday outside the Geneva hospital where the president is being treated.
He will be held overnight and appear before a prosecutor on Saturday, police spokesman Jean-Philippe Brandt said.
Nekkaz fell foul of Algerian electoral laws because he has previously held French nationality and stood aside for a cousin of the same name to run on his behalf.
Algeria has largely avoided the conflicts unleashed by the Arab Spring uprisings that brought down rulers in neighbouring Tunisia and Libya.
But discontent, particularly among the young, turned to anger after the veteran leader announced on February 10 that he would seek another term.
A demonstrator throws back a gas canister after security forces’ intervention during a protest march against candidacy of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a fifth term
Discontent, particularly among the young, turned to anger after the veteran President of Algeria announced in February that he would seek another term
Calls had circulated widely on social media under the hashtag ‘March 8 Movement’ for massive but peaceful demonstrations in the capital and cities across the North African state on Friday.
‘I will not throw a single stone!’ and ‘No windows will be smashed,’ were among ’18 commandments’ sent out to participants by poet and writer Lazhari Labter, as well as instructions to clean up streets after the protests.
He also called for demonstrators to turn the event into ‘a day of celebration’ and one of ‘love, faith, Algerian flags and roses’.
Michael Ayari, an analyst for the International Crisis Group, told AFP that there is no ‘anti-police (or) anti-army dimension’ to the protests, unlike the beginning of the Arab Spring in Tunisia in 2011.
Demonstrators throw rocks in response to security forces’ intervention during a protest march in the Algerian capital yesterday
Security forces intervene to push back demonstrators in Algeria during a protest against the President, who has been in power for 20 years, seeking a fifth term
He said ‘the army could try to steer a possible transition process’, citing retired general Ali Ghediri – a presidential candidate – as a potential consensus choice.
Despite a ban dating back to 2001, demonstrations have been staged almost daily in Algiers since a massive rally two weeks ago.
Around 1,000 lawyers took to the streets of Algiers on Thursday, arguing that the president’s ill health should disqualify him from the race.
They breached police cordons to march on the Constitutional Council, the body tasked with approving the candidacy of those registered to contest the poll.
Security forces intervene to demonstrators with tear gas during a protest march attended by tens of thousands in Algeria on Friday
Security measures are taken as people stage a protest march against candidacy of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a fifth term in Algiers, Algeria on March 08, 2019
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