After Bouteflika’s announcement of his bid for a fifth term in office, an official letter was submitted to address the protests of the Algerian people.
By Rahma Ouled Cherif
Rabat – Eleven days of mass protests in Algeria, the biggest protests in Algiers since the 2011 Arab Spring, have elicited an official letter by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika addressing the protests of the Algerian people.
Bouteflika, who has been in Switzerland since February 22 for routine medical checks, was unable to submit his papers for candidacy in person when they were due Sunday.
Abdelghani Zaalane, Bouteflika’s campaign chief, ignored the absence of the Algerian president and submitted the official candidacy papers for Bouteflika.
Zaalane also read out Bouteflika’s statement: “I have heard the pleas of protesters and especially the thousands of young people who asked about our nation’s future … I am committed to the organization of an early presidential election.”
If Bouteflika wins re-election on April 18, he promised a “national conference” would set a date for another election soon. “I pledge not to be a candidate for this election,” Bouteflika wrote.
Abdelwahab Derbal, the head of the election commission, noted the absence of Bouteflika. He told reporters, “The rule is explicit. For a presidential election, all candidates must present themselves at the Constitutional Council to submit their candidacy papers.”
It remains unclear if the constitutional council will approve Bouteflika’s candidacy.
The mass protests, according to the mouwatana (Democracy and Citizenship) movement leader, Soufiane Djilali, aim “to get rid of not just the president, but the entire regime.” He further emphasized, “The people on the street don’t support [any] candidate.”
Some opposition candidates supported Djilali’s claim, including former Prime Minister Ali Benflis, who came second in the 2014 presidential elections. He announced earlier on Sunday that he would refuse to join the presidential race and is calling for an election boycott.
Two other opposition parties, the Labor Party, led by Louisa Hanoune, and the Islamist Movement Society for Peace, have announced that they will boycott the polls.