Protests Held Across Algeria Against Fifth Term for President

(Bloomberg) -- Police fired tear gas on Friday to disperse thousands of mostly young Algerians protesting in the capital for political change and calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika not to seek a fifth term at elections in April.

Demonstrators poured out of mosques after Friday prayers and marched past the prime minister’s office in Algiers and onto the presidential palace, in the largest anti-government rally in the North African oil producer for years.

“You robbed the country” and “No fifth mandate for you, Bouteflika,” were chanted before police sought to end the protests. The octogenarian wheelchair-bound president has been in power since 1999 and the possibility of another term has become the main topic of discussion in the country.

Similar rallies were reported by local news outlets in several other cities, including in the restive Kabylie region. They followed an anonymous call for protests by people calling themselves the February 22 Movement that spread on social media.

Incapacitated since suffering a stroke in 2013, Bouteflika is credited with ending a decade-long civil war in the 1990s in which tens of thousands were killed after the powerful army canceled elections Islamists were poised to win. But the struggling economy has failed to provide the opportunities demanded by a youthful population, fueling resentment in a nation where protest is usually heavily circumscribed.

Bouteflika’s cabinet announced that he’ll travel to Geneva on Sunday for medical checks it described as routine.

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