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Algerian lawyers and journalists take part in a protest against their ailing president’s bid for a fifth term in power, in Algiers on March 7, 2019. – One thousand Algerian lawyers staged a demonstration today in front of the Constitutional Council against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s re-election bid, saying his ill health should disqualify him from the race.
Algerians are taking to the streets in droves as groups from across society demand their longtime president end his time in power.
Cities across Africa’s largest country have been flooded for the past two weeks with protesters opposing their ageing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s fifth re-election bid after 20 years in power. The demonstrations, which on March 1 by some estimates numbered more than a million, have sent shockwaves through the oil and gas-rich country — OPEC’s ninth largest crude producer.
For the security-heavy state that went largely untouched by the Arab Spring, the strength and audacity of the protests are a complete surprise, says Farah Soumes, a local freelance writer who’s been taking part in the demonstrations.
“When I went out into the streets, I was expected to be arrested, not to see solidarity. It’s amazing what is happening,” Soumes told CNBC via phone.
Soumes and others involved in the protests described participation by a broad array of Algerian society.
“There were intellectuals, former government and opposition party members, students, teachers, lawyers, women, men and the working class — you had a mix of conservative Algerians, Islamists, and as well as girls wearing jeans and makeup,” described Jihane Boudiaf, an Algerian analyst for IHS Markit, who was in the capital Algiers for the demonstrations.
“There is an incredible feeling of fraternity happening,” Boudiaf told CNBC. “Old and young people, united over one cause. But it’s not just about Bouteflika staying in power, it’s also about wanting a genuine change. A change in the system — they want more openness, transparency, opportunity.”