Students at Algiers rally say 'No' to Bouteflika 5th term

Algiers (AFP) –


Hundreds of students from universities across Algeria on Tuesday marched in the capital to protest against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's determination to run for a fifth term in April elections.

"Hey Bouteflika, there won't be a fifth term," the students chanted in central Algiers, an AFP reporter said.

Onlookers applauded them and motorists honked their horns in a show of support.

And in a sign they will not back down from protests calling on the veteran leader to resign, the students chanted "bring on the army commandos and the BRI (police rapid response squad)."

Bouteflika, who suffered a stroke in 2013, vowed in a letter read out on state television late Sunday to quit early if he is re-elected for a fifth time in the April vote.

He said he would organise a "national conference" that would set a date for further polls which he would not contest.

"I listened and heard the cry from the hearts of protesters and in particular the thousands of young people who questioned me about the future of our homeland," he said in the message.

But his words have failed to end the protests against him which first erupted on February 22 and have continued daily.

Tuesday's rallies came in response to calls on social media for students to gather outside the iconic building housing Algiers' main post office.

Police deployed across the centre of the capital where protests have been banned since 2001, but did not intervene.

Bouteflika, who is rarely seen in public, formally submitted his candidacy for the April 18 poll just before a midnight deadline on Sunday.

It was handed in by his campaign manager Abdelghani Zaalane as the president has been in Switzerland since February 24 for what the presidency has described as "routine medical tests".

Algerians, and local newspapers, have dismissed his promise to quit early as an insult and a show of contempt.

"No means no! Hasn't he understood the message of the people?," asked Selma, a student taking part in Tuesday's rally.

"Today we will make it clear for him, and again on Friday," which has been the main day for protests, she said.