Algeria since Bouteflika confirmed bid for 5th term


Algiers (AFP)

The confirmation on February 10 that Algeria's ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika would contest a fifth term sparked a series of protests in the North African country.

Here is a timeline.

- New bid confirmed -

On February 10 Bouteflika ends months of speculation and confirms that he intends to seek a fifth term in April 18 elections.

The leader, who became president in 1999, acknowledges his weakened state of health, which has left him in a wheelchair and rarely seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013.

"But the unwavering desire to serve... has never left me and it allows me to transcend the constraints linked to health troubles which everyone may one day face," he says, according to the APS news agency.

- Massive protest -

On February 22 tens of thousands of people demonstrate in several cities including the capital Algiers, where protests have been banned since 2001.

"No fifth mandate," chant the mostly young male demonstrators in the capital.

There are scuffles in Algiers between demonstrators and security forces who fire tear gas.

On February 24 hundreds of people take to the streets of Algiers, although the turnout is lower than in the previous protests.

In Paris, home to a large Algerian diaspora, hundreds of demonstrators wave placards, some reading "Regime murderers".

- Official media silent -

With state media silent on the protests, national radio journalists protest they are being prevented from reporting on the opposition to Bouteflika.

In an unsigned letter to management seen by AFP, they slam the "decision by the hierarchy to ignore" the rallies and deplore the skewing of coverage in favour of the incumbent.

Bouteflika heads to Geneva for "routine medical checks".

- Students join in -

In the first official reaction to the protests, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia calls on February 25 for "vigilance" at demonstrations and says it should be left to voters "to decide in a peaceful and civilised way" if Bouteflika gets a fifth term.

Around a hundred lawyers also protest, waving placards bearing messages saying that they are "with the people".

On February 26 around 500 students demonstrate on the main campus of the University of Algiers, shouting "No to a fifth term" and "Bouteflika get out" in the latest rally against his candidacy.

Thousands of students then rally peacefully in and around the capital and other cities.

- Journalists arrested -

Authorities announce that Bouteflika will formally submit his candidature on March 3, a day after turning 82.

On February 28 a dozen journalists are detained for several hours as they participate in a rally against alleged censorship of protest coverage.

Prime Minister Ouyahia compares the growing protest movement to the peaceful demonstrations that erupted in Syria and sparked a war which is now nearing its ninth year.

- Clashes -

On March 1, tens of thousands protest in Algiers and across the country. "Regime murderers", thousands chant in central Algiers.

Other demonstrations take place in the second and third cities -- Oran and Constantine.

Several people are wounded in clashes between police and groups of young protesters in Algiers, AFP journalists say.

Riot police fire tear gas to try to disperse a group of around 200 young people, around 1.5 kilometres (around a mile) from the presidential palace.