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Algeria's largest Islamic party withdraws from polls

People attend a demonstration to protest against candidacy of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a fifth term in Algiers, Algeria on March 01, 2019 [Farouk Batiche / Anadolu Agency]
People attend a demonstration to protest against candidacy of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a fifth term in Algiers, Algeria on 1 March 2019 [Farouk Batiche/Anadolu Agency]

The Movement of Society for Peace, Algeria's largest Islamic party, threatened on Sunday to withdraw from next month's presidential election if President Abdelaziz Bouteflika seeks a fifth term in office.

Announcing its support for popular protests against Bouteflika standing again, a movement statement called on the nation's political authority to respond to the demands of the people and in particular to forestall Bouteflika's fifth term.

Earlier Sunday, 145 members of the movement's Shura Council voted in favor of a decision to pull out from the race while 97 voted against, local media said.

Supporters of the withdrawal argue that the move was taken "in tandem with the desire of the people, who have gone out in the millions against the nomination of incumbent President Bouteflika."

Read: Protests resume in Algeria on day Bouteflika due to submit election bid

Separately, according to Swiss daily La Tribune de Geneve, there is no indication that Bouteflika, who has been undergoing treatment in a Swiss hospital for a week, is close to leaving.

The Swiss daily said the plane the Algerian president took to Switzerland last Sunday returned the same day to Algeria, with no announcement of its expected return, informed sources told the Swiss paper Sunday.

The same paper reported that there is no private Algerian plane scheduled to land at the Geneva airport.

Last month, Algeria's ruling National Liberation Front nominated the 81-year-old Bouteflika – who has ruled Algeria since 1999 – to run for a fifth term.

Opposition leaders, for their part, have repeatedly urged the aged president, who in 2013 was treated for a blood clot in the brain, to refrain from standing again.

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