Algeria’s president announces bid for fifth term amid protests
Abdelaziz Bouteflika has pledged to organise a public referendum on a new constitution and to call an early election in which he will not run.
Algeria’s ailing president has said if he wins a fifth term in April he will promote political changes demanded by critics and call an early presidential election in which he will not run.
In a written message to the nation, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said if he is re-elected April 18, he will organise a public referendum on a new constitution and respond to an opposition demand for an independent electoral commission.
The long-time leader also vowed to immediately call a “national conference” to set a date and prepare for another presidential election.
His decision to run next month has prompted rare, massive protests in recent days.
“I have heard the pleas of protesters and especially thousands of young people who asked about our nation’s future,” he wrote in his public message.
Mr Bouteflika was first elected in 1999. Questions about his fitness for office have grown since he suffered a stroke in 2013 and remained largely out of public view during his fourth term.
He turned 82 on Saturday and underwent medical checks in Switzerland last week.
Neither the government nor news media reported if he was back in Algeria.
Although the president’s office had said Mr Bouteflika intended to run again, his candidacy was not formal until Sunday.
Mr Bouteflika’s campaign chief, Abdelghani Zaalane, filed the president’s candidacy papers on Sunday at the Constitutional Council in Algiers, the country’s capital.
Hundreds of students took to the streets to denounce the new bid.
About 10 vans transported Mr Bouteflika’s documents to the building, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene.
Elevated security measures were in place in Algeria’s capital and especially around the Constitutional Council.
Sunday was the deadline for candidates to the April 18 presidential election to file their documents.
Images of students marching and chanting anti-government slogans appeared on social media.
In France, thousands of people from the European country’s Algerian community also rallied on Sunday in Paris and in the southern city of Marseille to oppose Mr Bouteflika remaining in office.
His major opponent during the 2004 and 2014 presidential elections, former Prime Minister Ali Benflis, announced on Sunday that he would not challenge the incumbent this year.
Mr Benflis said the central committee of his party, Talaie El Houriat – Arabic for Vanguard of Freedoms – decided not to field a candidate so as “not to serve as a pretext for the candidacy of the sick president”.
The head of the moderate Islamist party MSP, Abderrazak Makri, has also ruled out running.