Fresh protests against fifth term for Bouteflika in Algeria
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Hundreds of people demonstrated on Sunday in the Algerian capital against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term, as the ailing leader was scheduled to go to Switzerland for a medical checkup.
Police sprayed tear gas, brought in a water cannon and rounded up several people as shopkeepers pulled down their shutters, an AFP journalist said.
But turnout was much lower than on Friday when tens of thousands took to the streets including in Algiers, where demonstrations are strictly banned.
Security forces arrested more than 40 people after that protest, which saw police fire tear gas to block a march on the presidential palace, prompting demonstrators to respond with stone-throwing.
Sunday’s rally came in response to calls posted by anonymous users on social media.
It began when a group of 50 people gathered at the Place Audin in the centre of Algiers.
Security forces, deployed since the early hours of the morning and backed by a police helicopter, evacuated the central square, prompting the demonstrators to head elsewhere.
Joined by hundreds others they rallied along Didouche Mourad, a main shopping street which was closed to traffic and blocked by police, chanting “Algeria, free and democratic”.
Bouteflika, who uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, announced on February 10 that he will run for another term in office.
The president’s office has announced that Bouteflika will travel to Switzerland on Sunday for “routine medical checks” ahead of the April 18 presidential election.
He has had a long battle with illness and has frequently flown to France for treatment.
Bouteflika is Algeria’s longest-serving president and a veteran of its independence struggle who has clung to power since 1999 despite his ill health.