Algeria’s National Union of Lawyers’ Associations yesterday called on the authorities to postpone the elections and form a transitional government, and called on lawyers to protest.
Its leadership went on to call for a “March of 20 Million” today, to demand President Abdelaziz Bouteflika leave office and not stand in the next elections. Algerians have been protesting against Bouteflika’s decision to run for a fifth term. The 82-year-old suffered a stroke in 2013 and has rarely been seen in public since on account of his ailing health. He travelled to Switzerland for treatment this week.
The National Organisation of the Mujahideen, which includes veterans who fought alongside Bouteflika in the War of Independence from France between 1954 and 1962, and the General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA) both came out to say they do not support Bouteflika’s bid for the presidency, calling on people to protest peacefully.Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gaid Salah reiterated that the army would not allow a security breakdown. “Everyone knows that we have been very committed to providing all the security conditions to the people and to Algeria,“ he said.
Some officials from the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) joined the protesters, while some public figures have resigned as a result of the controversy.
Protesters praised the army, which remained in its barracks during the protests. However, analysts and former officials said that the army will probably intervene if the protests lead to widespread instability in the country, which is one of Africa’s biggest oil producers.
The president, who has been in office since 1999, insisted he would run for the 18 April election, but would call for early elections within his party to find a successor after a national conference to discuss reforms and a new constitution.