March 23, 2019
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Algeria's massive Friday protests continue despite Bouteflika's measures

Algiers, Mar 15 (efe-epa).- Thousands of demonstrators opposing Algeria's president took to the streets Friday for the fourth consecutive week.

Ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 82, renounced his bid for a fifth term in office Monday and postponed the presidential elections, initially scheduled for Apr. 18.

But no new date has been set for the voting meaning that he will continue as leader even after his mandate has expired.

Rallies continued in full force as protestors denounced the outgoing president.

Thousands of Algerians - many of them young people - gathered at the Grand Post Square in central Algiers, the capital, just before midday.

Some carried banners that read "no alternative than departure," an efe-epa journalist reported.

The crowd chanted anti-regime slogans such as "regime killer" and "enough corruption" and vehicles arrived in the capital from other cities, including Kabylie and Khenchela, where the protests initially broke out against Bouteflika's decision to run.

The number of campaigners is expected to increase after the midday prayers, as has happened over the last few weeks, amid tight security measures.

Bouteflika, who has been treated at a Swiss hospital since Feb. 24, returned on Sunday afternoon to his home country and has been transported to the Zeralda Presidential Palace on the outskirts of Algiers, but no one has seen him.

He has rarely made any public appearances since he suffered a stroke in 2013 but he managed to win another term in office in the 2014 elections.

The protests against his candidacy started among fans at soccer matches several months ago before spilling onto the streets of the capital and spreading to other big cities on Feb. 22.

As the protests kicked off, he traveled for what state-run media called a routine checkup in a Switzerland hospital, where he stayed for weeks.

While he was hospitalized out of the country, Bouteflika's campaign manager and the country's transportation minister, Abdeghani Zalene, submitted the president's name for election, a move later made null and void following the president's announcement not to run.

In another bid to weaken the rallies, the government brought vacations for university students forward by 10 days nationwide.

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