Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's offer of a new constitution and a truncated next term does not appear to have satisfied protesters, as thousands of people continued to rally in the capital and other cities yesterday.
Thousands of Algerian students marched in protest at ailing President Bouteflika's determination to stand for re-election.
Following mass demonstrations, the veteran leader promised that if he wins the April poll he will organize a "national conference" to set a date for further elections which he would not contest. But his pledge, made in a letter read out late Sunday on state television, has been angrily dismissed as an insult by Algerians weary of his two-decade-old rule.
Rallies demanding the 82-year-old resign have rocked Algeria since Feb. 22, with protesters mobilized by calls on social media, in a country where half the population is under 30 and many young people struggle to find jobs. As well as voicing opposition to Bouteflika's attempt to hold onto power, the protesters are accusing the country's secretive leadership of failing to share Algeria's gas wealth, heavy-handed security policies and widespread corruption.
Thousands of university students from campuses across Algiers marched in the capital, many carrying their country's flag. Abderahman, a 21-year-old student, said Bouteflika "wants an extra year" in power. "We don't want him to stay even an extra second. He should leave now," he said. Police deployed across the center of the capital where protests have been banned since 2001.
The TSA news website reported similar protests in Algeria's second and third cities, Oran and Constantine, as well as in other towns and cities. "Hey Bouteflika, there won't be a fifth term," the students chanted in central Algiers, an AFP reporter said.
Bouteflika was first elected in 1999 and is credited with reconciling the country after a decade of civil war between Islamic insurgents and security forces that left around 200,000 dead.
Meanwhile, Algeria's army will guarantee security and not allow a return to an era of bloodshed, its chief of staff said yesterday, according to Ennahar TV station. Gaed Salah said there were some parties he did not name which wanted Algeria to return to the "years of pain," referring civil war in the 90s.
Opposition figures have repeatedly urged the aging wheelchair-bound president, who in 2013 was treated for a blood clot in the brain, to refrain from contesting the election. According to the constitution, the parliament speaker, in case of the sickness or death of the president, shall assume the functions of the latter for a maximum period of 90 days, during which presidential elections shall be held. In such case, the interim president in will not be eligible to run for presidential polls.
Compiled from wires
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