ALGIERS: Supporters and opponents of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s decision to seek a fourth term in April elections staged rival demonstrations in the capital Algiers on Saturday.
The 77-year-old’s decision to seek re-election had been expected despite concerns over his health after he was hospitalized for three months in Paris last year because of a mini-stroke.
Around 3,000 supporters of the president gathered in the capital for what they called “a national meeting to sensitize young people to voting.”
They screened a documentary about Bouteflika’s 15 years in power, and his former premier and election campaign manager Abdelmalek Sellal gave a speech.
At the same time but on the other side of the city, hundreds of opponents of Bouteflika’s re-election bid also held peaceful marches.
Three different opposition marches took place, with the largest biggest organized by the Barakat (Arabic for “That’s enough”) movement, which was formed specifically to oppose Bouteflika seeking another term.
The protesters marched under the slogan “Enough of this election masquerade”.
In the south, meanwhile, intercommunal clashes raged in a neighborhood of Ghardaia for a fifth consecutive day, and the city centre was like a “ghost town”, sources said.
The city of 90,000 inhabitants has been rocked since December by clashes between the Chaamba community of Arab origin and the majority Mozabites, indigenous Berbers belonging to the Ibadi Muslim sect.
“Hundreds of people are continuing to clash in the mixed neighborhood of Hadj Messaoud,” regional official Mohamed Tounsi told AFP by telephone.