Tuesday 22 October 2019

Large demonstrations in Algeria against ailing president’s rule

Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is in poor health, is seeking a fifth term.

Protesters demonstrate in the streets of Algiers (Sidali Djarboub/AP)
Protesters demonstrate in the streets of Algiers (Sidali Djarboub/AP)

By Aomar Ouali, Associated Press

Masses of Algerians surged through the capital and rallied in other cities against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term.

It was an exceptional popular challenge to the country’s secretive leadership.

Protesters surged past a barricade and defied repeated volleys of tear gas fired by police in the march in Algiers.

Most marchers were peaceful but a small group throwing stones clashed at the end of the event with police, causing some injuries.

Protesters clash with police (Toufik Doudou/AP)

Such anti-government protests are unusual in Algeria, where questions are growing about Mr Bouteflika’s fitness for office after a 2013 stroke that has left him largely hidden from public.

Police helicopters circled overhead as crowds gathered in streets and parks of Algiers after midday Muslim prayer services to join the march.

Organisers of the social media-driven movement hope the protest will send a loud signal of public discontent to Algeria’s secretive leadership before the April 18 presidential election.

“For a free and democratic Algeria!” shouted some demonstrators, or “No fifth term!”

A woman poses with a sign reading No To A Fifth Term (Fateh Gudoum/AP)

The crowd included families with small children and women in headscarves or jeans.

Riot police lined key avenues, determined to keep marchers from nearing government buildings.

Bursts of tear gas fire punctuated the afternoon, starting soon after crowds started gathering.

Demonstrators carry their national flag (Anis Belghoul/AP)

More and more demonstrators joined in as the group marched along a route parallel to the city’s Mediterranean shore.

Police stopped the crowd near the central post office, and the protesters’ chants briefly fell silent as they joined together to sing the Algerian national anthem.

Then the crowd overwhelmed a police barricade, pushing on toward Martyrs’ Square in the historic Casbah neighbourhood.

PA Media

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