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Algeria’s Bouteflika replaces campaign manager

Tiksa Negeri, Reuters | Abdelmalek Sellal, then-prime minister of Algeria, arrives for the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and the Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on January 31, 2017.

Algeria’s President Bouteflika sacked his campaign manager Abdelmalek Sellal on Saturday, state media reported, following mass protests against the ailing leader’s decision to stand for a fifth term in office.

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Former premier Sellal was replaced as campaign manager by Abdelghani Zaalene, the transport minister, APS news agency said, citing Bouteflika’s campaign team, without giving a reason.

Algerian media TSA reported a deployment of security forces on Sunday near the country’s Constitutional Council, as the deadline for candidates to submit an application for the April 18 presidential election expires on March 3 at midnight.

The development comes a day after tens of thousands of Algerians protested the prospect of another term for the 82-year-old Bouteflika. Opponents say the president, who suffered a stroke in 2013 and has been seen in public only a few times since, is no longer fit for the job.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika, a veteran of Algeria’s 1954-1962 independence war against France who has been in power since 1999, has not directly addressed the protests or formally confirmed he will stand, although representatives have indicated he will do so.

Sellal sacking 'quite important', signifies campaign going ahead, says journalist Akram Kharief in Algiers

The authorities said last week he would travel to Geneva for unspecified medical checks, although there was no official confirmation he had travelled.

Algerian media did not report on his trip but Swiss public television said late on Saturday that Bouteflika was at Geneva University Hospital.

A total of 183 people were injured during Friday’s protests across Algeria and one person died of a heart attack, APS said.

The capital Algiers was quiet on Saturday. Large-scale demonstrations rarely seen in Algeria with its ubiquitous security services against Bouteflika’s re-election move began a week ago and have grown in size.

Algeria demos 'very much a protest on the Arab Spring model,' says GWU Professor William Lawrence

Many Algerians avoided public political activity for years, fearing trouble from the security services or disillusioned with the group of war veterans that has run the country since independence.

After a decade-long Islamist insurgency that Bouteflika stamped out early in his rule, Algerians have often tolerated a political system with little space for dissent as a price to pay for peace and stability.

The opposition is weak and divided and may struggle to mount an electoral challenge. Since the FLN party again picked Bouteflika as its presidential candidate, several parties, trade unions and business groups have endorsed him.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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