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Powerful Algeria party abandons Bouteflika

March 20, 2019 at 10:03 am

Former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 18 January 2018 [Wikipedia]

An influential Algerian party that was a long-time supporter of Abdelaziz Bouteflika has criticised the ailing president for seeking to stay in power, as mass demonstrations calling for the end of his rule continue.

The National Rally for Democracy (RND), a member of the ruling coalition, has joined ruling party officials, unions and business tycoons who have abandoned Bouteflika in recent days, after nearly a month of street demonstrations protests.

“The candidacy of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a new term was a big mistake,” RND spokesman Seddik Chihab told El Bilad TV.

“Extra constitutional forces have seized power in the past few years and ruled state affairs outside a legal framework.”

READ: Algeria proposes dialogue with protesters on new political system

The decision is a u-turn for a party which previously said it “looks forward to the announcement of the candidacy” of Bouteflika.

Bouteflika, who has ruled for 20 years, bowed to the protesters last week by reversing plans to stand for a fifth term. But he stopped short of stepping down and said he would stay in office until a new constitution is adopted, effectively extending his present term.

His moves have done nothing to halt demonstrations, which peaked on Friday with hundreds of thousands of protesters on the streets of Algiers and have continued into this week.

READ: The Algerian regime is ‘politically dead’ so there is cause for optimism

RND leader Ahmed Ouyahia, a former prime minister who had close ties to intelligence agencies, has also switched sides. “The people’s demands should be met as soon as possible,” he told followers in a letter on Sunday.

The protests continued yesterday, with students, university professors and health workers rallying in Algiers calling for Bouteflika to quit.

Algerians protest president’s bid for 5th term - Cartoon [Mohammad Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Algerians protest president’s bid for 5th term – Cartoon [Mohammad Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]