Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 16 October 2019

Algerian president's party rejects his protest strategy

Critics fear Abdelaziz Bouteflika intends to hold on to power indefinitely

People wave Algerian national flags during a protest calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit, in Algiers. Reuters 
People wave Algerian national flags during a protest calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit, in Algiers. Reuters 

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's party says the country needs a leader "capable of talking to the people", in a new blow to the ailing 82-year-old.

Mr Bouteflika cancelled an April 18 election but proposed a national conference made up of various representatives of society to prepare new elections.

FLN spokesman Hocine Khaldoun said on Sunday that the conference idea is "no longer valid" because it would involve unelected figures and the protesters reject it.

Nationwide anti-Bouteflika protests began on February 22, demanding the departure of the president at the end of his term scheduled on April 28. While he abandoned his bid for a fifth term in office, critics fear that he intends to hold on to power indefinitely.

On Saturday hundreds of lawyers took to the streets of the capital to push for the end of the president's 20-year rule.

Marching in their black courtroom robe, protesting lawyers said cancelling the election was unconstitutional. Banners at their demonstration targeted corruption in Algeria's power structure and "telephone call justice", referring to alleged interference in legal cases by Justice Minister Tayeb Louh, a Bouteflika ally.

"The people have made a choice, that this is the end of the gang in power," said Fareed Al Wali, a member of a lawyer's union told the Associated Press. "And after this, God willing, there will be a time of reckoning. And anyone who stole or embezzled a cent from the Algerian state budget, it will first be returned and then they will appear before Algerian justice."

Another protester, Ahmed Shawash, said: "We are asking them [the regime] to leave as soon as possible, and leave the people to choose their future."

The movement has drawn protesters from a large section of Algerian society – families with babies, elderly people with canes, teachers, unemployed youth, imams. But it's notably driven via social networks by young people who feel Mr Bouteflika's generation is out of touch with the country's economic problems.

Updated: March 25, 2019 04:52 PM

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