Algerians seem determined not to leave the streets as mass anti-government protests continued to grow as the ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika returned to the country after two weeks in a Swiss hospital. The unprecedented citizens' revolt began last month and has drawn millions into the streets of cities across the country to say no to a fifth term for their 82-year-old president, and no to a system blamed for corruption and keeping Bouteflika in office despite his ailments. Despite promising to stand down should he secure another term, protesters have not been swayed. At the beginning of the protests, the main demand by the crowd was for Bouteflika to withdraw his bid for a fifth presidential term, as other than his age, he also has apparent physical problems.
However soon after, protesters started demanding comprehensive change, from political administration to economics.
In response to the protests, the ailing president issued six commitments: A National Conference debate to be held after elections on political, institutional, economic and social reforms; a referendum on a new constitution; the implementation of public policies guaranteeing a fairer redistribution of national wealth and the elimination of marginalization and social exclusion; adoption of new policies focusing on the economic and social development of Algeria's youth population; revisions of Algeria's electoral laws, including the creation of an independent election body, and the organization of an early presidential election.
It was understood from the last point that he would not bid for the presidency for a sixth time.
His absence saw growing demonstrations demanding that he withdraw his candidacy for a fifth term in next month's election. Algerians have hardly seen Bouteflika since he suffered a stroke in 2013, and anger has mounted at the country's secretive power structure.
Middle school and high school students held protests in several towns, according to local media. Education Minister Nouria Bengahbrit appealed on social media for protesters to "leave schools out of political turbulence" shaking the country, as reported by the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, lawyers in their black robes gathered yesterday in front of courthouses to join calls for Bouteflika to abandon his bid for another term.
Bouteflika, who has been ruling the country since 1999, had a stroke in 2013 and since then he has not appeared in public. His speeches are read out by the ruling party's officials. Protesters believe that Bouteflika is not physically capable of fulfilling his duties as president. However, officials from the ruling party, the National Liberation Front (FLN), claim that the president is mentally strong enough to continue his duty.