Algeria sees rare anti-government demonstration

The demonstrators were rallying in response to a call from the “Rejection Front,” a group made up of the families of missing persons from Algeria’s civil war in the 1990s and members of an employment rights group.

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ALGIERS // Around 40 people demonstrated in Algiers on Saturday calling for a change of government, as ailing 77-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika seek reelection next month.

Mr Bouteflika, in office since 1999, was hospitalised in Paris last year for three months after suffering a mini-stroke.

He is a candidate in the April 17 election despite concerns over his health, and is widely expected to win a fourth mandate, sparking rare criticism from senior political figures.

The demonstrators were rallying in response to a call from the “Rejection Front,” a group made up of the families of missing persons from Algeria’s civil war in the 1990s and members of an employment rights group.

“We are here to say that this election is nothing to do with us whatsoever. The people must have their say again,” one protester said.

They carried placards reading “the people want to topple the regime,” and chanted “the martyrs (from the civil war) freed the country, but the corrupt sold off its resources”.

There was a heavy security presence at the central post office in Algiers, where the rally was taking place, and police encircled the protesters but did not otherwise intervene.

On Friday, thousands of people attended a government-authorised meeting in Algiers in favour of a boycott of the elections.

Previously, authorities had prevented all street demonstrations opposed to the election or Mr Bouteflika’s candidacy.

The election campaign begins on Sunday and will last until voting day.

* Agence France-Presse