Tens of thousands of protesters denounced President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's campaign for a fifth term in office across Algeria on Sunday, March 3, demanding that he not submit forms to the Constitutional Council to formally register his candidacy by the Sunday deadline. Bouteflika's campaign manager reportedly submitted the forms on Sunday evening (local time) on behalf of the incumbent president, who is in Switzerland seeking medical treatment. Bouteflika asserted in a letter read by his campaign manager that he would offer to organize a constitutional referendum and step down after a new vote held within a year if elected to a fifth mandate in the upcoming April 18 presidential elections.
As many as 70,000 people gathered to protest in Algiers, with thousands marching through the city center - areas of which were cordoned off by security forces. Police notably used water cannons and tear gas to disperse anti-Bouteflika protesters near the University of Algiers. Unconfirmed reports claimed that security forces briefly closed the N11 road in Bab Ezzouar en route to Houari Boumediene Airport (ALG), serving Algiers. Thousands of others participated in anti-Bouteflika demonstrations in Oran, Constantine, Annaba, Batna, Blida, Skikda, Bouira, Guelma, Tiaret, and Mostaganem.
Similar political rallies and protests are expected across Algeria in advance of the April 18 elections. A heightened security presence and associated disruptions (e.g. transportation, commercial, internet service) are likely during protests. Further clashes between protesters and police cannot be ruled out.
The protests were organized in response to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's campaign to be reelected for a fifth term; presidential elections are set for April 18. In early February, the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) officially nominated Bouteflika as their candidate. Bouteflika's campaign manager formally submitted the incumbent president's candidacy on March 3.
Bouteflika has been in power since 1999. There is widespread discontent with Bouteflika's economic policies, lack of public appearances following a stroke in 2013, and repression of speech; such frustrations have led to the largest and most extensive anti-government demonstrations in Algeria since the 2011 Arab Spring protests. Public demonstrations in Algeria, banned since 2001, are usually rare and are often met with a heavy security presence. On March 1, at least 183 people were wounded in clashes between protesters and police across the country.
Individuals in Algeria are advised to monitor the situation, avoid all public demonstrations as a precaution, anticipate business and transportation disruptions as well as a heightened security presence near protest sites, refrain from discussing political subjects in public or on social media, and adhere to instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments.
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