Algerian police thwart anti-Bouteflika election protests
Algerians, whose shirts are reading "no to a fourth term" demonstrate in Algiers on March 6, 2014, against the bid by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run for a fourth term in the up coming April 17 national elections. (AFP)
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Algerian security forces on Wednesday prevented opposition leaders from marching to demand a boycott of next month’s election, in which long-reigning President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is seeking a fourth term in office.
Opposition members, including leaders from the secularist Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) and the Islamist Movement for Peace and Society (MSP) are arguing that Bouteflika’s decision to run the upcoming elections has put an end to the polls’ competition being fair, Reuters reported.
Aged 77, Bouteflika announced that he would running in the April 17 vote last week. It was one of the few times he has spoken publicly since suffering a stroke last year, a health incident that has caused his opponents to question his ability to rule Algeria for another term.
State police forces prevented protesters from the RCD and MSP – some 50 or 60 people according to Reuters – who were demonstrating with banners reading “Boycott” on Wednesday. They claimed the protest was illegal.
"Why are they so afraid? It is a peaceful march, all we want is to convey a message that Bouteflika is too old, too ill to rule Algeria," said Abdelkader Ait Ali, one of the failed protesters told Reuters.
"Bouteflika needs a rest, he is tired," Islamist leader Abdallah Djaballah told the crowds gathered.
Meanwhile, a band of Bouteflika supporters shouted "Yes for a fourth term for Bouteflika" nearby the failed demonstrators.
The official election campaigns are set to begin on March 23, Reuters reported. International observers – including officials from the European Union – have been invited to monitor the elections to ensure the results are fair.
Due to his support from the powerful National Liberation Front (FLN), Bouteflika is “almost assured” another five years as Algerian president, Reuters reported, adding that the rare public appearances the political veteran has made has cast doubts over the state of his health.
Major demonstrations are not a regular occurrence in Algiers, where an elite band of officials known as “The Power” have exerted serious influence over domestic politics since the country’s independence from France in 1962.
During the 1990s, Algeria had a brutal civil war in which more than 200,000 people died during clashes with Islamists.