Algerians take to streets in ‘Million Man March’ to protest Bouteflika’s re-election bid
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Thousands of people took to the streets of Algeria's capital Friday to protest against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term in power.
The gathering, like other demonstrations around the large north African country, was mostly peaceful, but police fired tear gas on one occasion to try to disperse demonstrators assembling in Algiers after Friday prayers.
Chanting “Bye, bye Bouteflika”, “peaceful, peaceful” and some carrying roses, the crowd vented frustration at a plan by the 81-year-old leader to extend his 20-year rule in April elections.
Within one hour of starting, the protest quickly drew tens of thousands, including young people, families and some elderly, the largest gathering since 2011 “Arab Spring” demonstrations.
Since last Friday thousands have taken part in rarely seen anti-government protests against 81-year-old Bouteflika's decision to stand in the April 18 election. Bouteflika suffered a stroke in 2013, and according to his opponents, there is no evidence he is fit enough to lead the country and that it is being ruled in his name by advisers. Authorities say he retains a firm grip on public affairs despite the rarity of his appearances.
Protesters have been mobilised by calls on social media and say the latest demonstrations are aimed not only at Bouteflika's bid to extend his 20-year tenure, but also against "the system" as a whole.