Hundreds of people demonstrated yesterday in the Algerian capital against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term after six years of his near total absence from public life.
Police sprayed tear gas, brought in a water cannon and rounded up several people as shopkeepers pulled down their shutters, an AFP journalist said.
On Friday thousands took to the streets in the capital and other Algerian cities calling on Bouteflika, 81, to abandon his bid to stand in presidential election scheduled to be held on April 18. 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.
Bouteflika, who uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, announced on Feb. 10 that he will run for another term in office. The president's office announced that Bouteflika went to Switzerland yesterday for "routine medical checks" ahead of the election. He has had a long battle with illness and has frequently flown to France for treatment. "People do not want Bouteflika," the crowd chanted at a protest called by an opposition group.
Since the ruling FLN party picked Bouteflika as its presidential candidate, several political parties, trade unions and business organizations have already said they would back him, and he is expected to win easily as the opposition remains weak and divided.
Strikes and protests over social and economic grievances are frequent in Algeria, but are generally localized and do not touch on national politics. More than a quarter of Algerians under 30 are unemployed, according to official figures, and many feel disconnected from a ruling elite made up of veteran fighters from Algeria's 1954-1962 independence war with France.