Algerian security forces arrested on Thursday dozens of demonstrators who are against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's decision to run for a fourth term in office. Presidential elections in Algeria are scheduled for 17 April.
The protesters gathered in front of the headquarters of the Central University in downtown Algiers. Mostly young people, they chanted anti-regime slogans such as "the killing regime," "Algeria is free and democratic" and "enough of the security state."
However, the demonstration was soon interrupted by security forces, which dispersed the protesters and arrested dozens.
The demonstration was organised by the Barakat Movement, which means "enough", and came three days after President Bouteflika officially announced his decision to run for a fourth term as president. The opposition has demanded for the government to make public the state of Bouteflika's health, after his absence for nearly a year since suffering from a stroke that prevented him from performing his duties in a normal way. He is 77 years old.
The protesters were defying an existing governmental decree, issued in 2011, prohibiting gatherings and marches in Algiers for security reasons.
The security forces arrested dozens of people in a similar demonstration a few days ago, but they have since been released.
The Algerian Prime Minister, Abdul Malik Salal, has strongly criticized the opposition's rejection of Bouteflika's candidacy under the pretext of his health condition, telling the parliament that "The president's health is normal", adding that he is not obliged to lead the election campaign by himself and he prefers to delegate this to his supporters.
But the former Algerian minister in charge of the national community abroad, Halim bin Atallah, has questioned the ability of President Bouteflika to remain in office because of his deteriorating health, doubting whether he would be able to pay official visits and attend to official commitments over the next five years if he won the presidential election.