Algerians protest despite Bouteflika’s promise not to run

ALGIERS: Thousands of demonstrators gathered in the centre of the Algerian capital for a fourth consecutive on Friday demanding the ouster of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, rejecting his offer not to seek re-election.
With police standing back without intervening, the crowd at Algiers’ landmark Grand Poste square was growing, hours before the scheduled start of a demonstration calling on the 82-year-old to step down after two decades in power.
The rally is the first major test of whether Bouteflika has calmed anger on the streets with his surprise announcement on Monday that he would not seek a fifth term but was cancelling an April presidential poll.
“You pretend to understand us, we will pretend to listen to you,” read a banner held aloft by the mostly young demonstrators.
Bouteflika had initially sparked joy among protesters when he said he would not stand again, but his move to cancel the vote prompted accusations of “tricks” and sparked a new round of demonstrations.
He has also named a new prime minister, replacing unpopular premier Ahmed Ouyahia with former interior minister Noureddine Bedoui, who on Thursday defended the postponement of the poll.
Bouteflika, who uses a wheelchair and has rarely appeared in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, has promised a “national conference” to carry out reforms.
The president said that new elections would be held “before the end of 2019”, suggesting he may stay in office for another year.
Algeria has largely avoided the turmoil unleashed by the Arab Spring uprisings that brought down rulers in neighbouring Tunisia and Libya. — AFP