|Date: Mar 5, 2019|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Students protest Bouteflika’s offer of shortened term|
ALGIERS: Students determined to pursue Algeria’s biggest anti-government protests in years boycotted classes Monday to denounce an offer by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run in elections next month but not to serve a full term if re-elected.
Hundreds staged small demonstrations in several cities outside the capital, footage posted online showed, continuing almost two weeks of marches and rallies against the 82-year-old leader’s intent to seek a fifth term.
Bouteflika’s offer, made Sunday, appeared to aim to take the steam out of youthful opposition to his 20-year rule and shore up an establishment dominated by aging revolutionary stalwarts of the 1954-62 independence war against France.
A former Algerian government minister resigned as a lawmaker and member of the ruling FLN party Monday, a rare sign of discontent within an elite coming under unprecedented pressure.
Sidi Ferroukhi, who has served as agriculture minister, did not address Bouteflika in a Facebook statement, saying only that Algeria was going through exceptional circumstances and change.
Shops were open in Algiers Monday but students did not show up for classes at Bab Ezzouar University in Algiers, the biggest in the oil-producing North African country.
Several other university campuses in Algiers were deserted. “We are not going to study. This is a decision we have taken yesterday,” Amina, a 21-year-old student, told Reuters.
“Together we are the world and the system is nothing,” a message on social media posted by activists said.
Hundreds of students marched in Blida, about 40 kilometers south of Algiers, shouting, “No new term, no new term!” Security forces have sought to contain protests but there was no sign of the military.Bouteflika’s campaign manager said Sunday that the president would run in the April 18 election, defying calls for him to quit at the end of his current term.
The announcement, read out by Abdel-Ghani Zaalane on Bouteflika’s behalf, said the president pledged that if he won, he would organize a national conference to discuss reforms and then call early elections in which he would not run.
Ennahar TV said the fresh vote would be held within a year.
A group of opposition leaders and political activists called for a postponement of the election.
Algiers residents who spoke to Reuters said they were disappointed by Bouteflika’s decision.
“How come Bouteflika asks for one more year? There is nothing in the constitution that allows this,” Maziane Ali, a 50-year-old owner of a fast food restaurant, said.
Bouteflika’s political survival may hinge on how the elite, made up of members of his FLN party, the military and business tycoons, react if protests keep growing.
His opponents say he is no longer fit to lead, citing his ill health and what they call chronic corruption and a lack of economic reforms.
Despite the challenge to Bouteflika posed by the generally peaceful protests, analysts say the demonstrators lack a leader and the opposition is fragmented and disorganized.