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Algeria’s Bouteflika vows not to ‘serve full term’ if elected

Muslim Times(Web Desk) – Algeria’s ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has for the fifth term submitted his candidacy for the country’s presidential votes, but offered to step down after a year if re-elected for a fifth term in office amid mass protests against his 20 years in power.

Bouteflika’s campaign manager, Abdelghani Zaalane, on Sunday submitted official papers confirming the ailing president will seek re-election on April 18 despite massive protests against the decision.

In a move to appease those who had taken to the streets this weekend to protest against the 82-year-old’s plans to remain in office, his representative said Bouteflika would step down after a year if he is re-elected.

Tens of thousands of protesters had been rallying throughout the day in cities around Algeria to call for Bouteflika to step down after his 20 years in power. He has not spoken about the protests or addressed the protesters’ concerns.

In shaky health for years and rarely seen in public since he suffered a stroke in 2013, Bouteflika was still in Switzerland for unspecified medical checks at the weekend, Swiss media reported.

Opponents of Bouteflika say is no longer fit to lead, citing his poor health and what they call chronic corruption and a lack of economic reforms to tackle high unemployment that exceeds 25 percent among people under the age of 30.

Analysts say the protesters, who began hitting the streets 10 days ago, lack leadership and organization in a country still dominated by veterans, like Bouteflika, of the 1954-62 independence war against France.

But traditionally weak and divided opposition and civic groups have called for protests to go on should Bouteflika, in power for 20 years, continue pursuit of re-election.

The government has played on fears among many Algerians of a return of bloodshed seen in the 1990s when an estimated 200,000 people were killed after extremists took up arms when the military cancelled elections they were poised to win.

But the new series of protests have been generally peaceful, apart from Friday when scuffles with police left 183 injured.

Thousands of students gathered on Sunday at university faculties, one of them near the Constitutional Council where presidential candidates filed their papers, chanting: “No to a fifth term!” or “A free and democratic Algeria!”

According to witnesses and local television footage, protesters also turned out in their thousands in other cities around the North African country, such as Oran, Constantine, Annaba, Batna, Blida, Skikda and Bouira.

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