Published: Sun, March 03, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Thousands of Algerians call on Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down

Thousands of Algerians call on Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down

Tens of thousands protested in the Algerian capital Friday, facing heavy tear gas as they rallied against a fifth term for ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

His opponents say 82-year-old Bouteflika, is not fit to lead but authorities say he retains a firm grip on public affairs.

Arabic language media reported on Saturday that Bouteflika's health had deteriorated to critical condition causing doctors at the Swiss medical facility to cancel a planned operation and move him to intensive care.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is seen in Algiers, Algeria April 9, 2018.

Protesters surged past a barricade and defied repeated volleys of tear gas fired by police in the march in Algiers.

Algiers saw its biggest anti-government demonstration in eight years Friday as crowds of young and old chanted "bye, bye Bouteflika" and "peaceful, peaceful".

AFP news agency has quoted a woman as saying that "twenty years are enough".

The head-of-state flew to Switzerland on Sunday for what the presidency called "routine medical checks" and has not yet returned.

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The censorship went as far as preventing protesters from filming the large police presence set up in the capital early in the morning. "It needs to change and then we will build a new state", protester Sid Ali said. Since the major demonstrations that took place last week, smaller protests have seen students, lawyers and journalists vent their ire.

Known for wearing a three-piece suit even in the north African nation's stifling heat, Bouteflika gained respect from many for his role in ending the war, which official data indicates killed almost 200,000 people.

Many Algerians avoided public political activity for years, fearing trouble from the security services or disillusioned with the war veterans who have run the country since independence.

Mr Bouteflika came to power in 1999 and is credited with putting an end to a civil war that is estimated to have killed more than 100,000 people.

"It is no longer acceptable for them to hide behind a sick man incapable of running the country", said Aisaroun about Bouteflika and his entourage.

Lower oil prices have weakened Algeria's economy and made it more hard to buy off dissent as the government did in 2011 when it expanded welfare state measures.

But in a sign of weakness to mount a challenge against the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN), an umbrella group of opposition parties again called on Bouteflika to quit but did not nominate a single candidate.

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