The Ministry of Higher Education announced on Saturday, March 9, that the annual spring break holiday for university students will be moved up by ten days. Spring holiday will now be held from Sunday, March 10, through Thursday, April 4. Officials did not provide a reason for the change, but it may be an attempt to counter student-led protests to denounce President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's campaign for a fifth term in office. Student and teacher groups are calling for marches across Algeria on Sunday in response to the decision. Tens of thousands of people participated in a demonstration in Algiers on Friday, March 8, which was eventually dispersed by police officers firing tear gas. Almost 200 people were reportedly detained during the protest.
On a related note, lawyers have called for an indefinite strike to start on Monday, March 11. Additionally, education unions have called for a nationwide general strike to take place on Wednesday, March 13. Similar political rallies, protests, and strikes are expected across Algeria ahead of the April 18 elections.
Several protests have been organized across the country since February 22 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 asserted in a letter 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.
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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