Algeria’s Bouteflika warns of ‘chaos’ as protests continue

Lawyers hold banners as they chant slogans during a protest to denounce an offer by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run in elections next month but not to serve a full term if re-elected, in Algiers, Algeria March 7, 2019.The sign reads, "The rule of state is ruled by law not individuals". REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Lawyers hold banners as they chant slogans during a protest to denounce an offer by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run in elections next month but not to serve a full term if re-elected, in Algiers, Algeria March 7, 2019.The sign reads, “The rule of state is ruled by law not individuals”. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has warned of chaos following mass protests against his decision to run for a fifth term in office, despite his poor health.

In a letter published by Algeria’s official APS news agency on Thursday, the 82-year-old President praised demonstrators for “peacefully expressing their opinions”.

However he went on to warn against possible infiltration of the protests by “domestic and foreign” forces that “may lead to sedition and chaos and resulting crises and woes.”

“There are many people who regret that Algeria survived … peacefully and serenely the surge of the Arab Spring,” Bouteflika said. 

“These circles, which envy our liberty, independence of our decisions and our just positions, have never ceased to conspire against our country.”

Bouteflika did not directly address demonstrators’ demands to back down from his bid to seek re-election.

The incumbent President, who has been in power since 1999, is in a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013.

His bid for a fifth term at the April 18 election sparked waves of protests across Algeria, with thousands defying a 2001 ban on protests in the capital of Algiers.

Local media cited security sources at the interior ministry, saying as many as 800,000 people turned up to the protest in downtown Algiers last Friday.

In response, Bouteflika said that he would step down early if re elected. “I listened and heard the cry from the hearts of protesters and in particular the thousands of young people who questioned me about the future of our homeland”, it said.

However, this has done little to quell protests, which continue to grow across the country.

On 24 February Bouteflika was transferred to a hospital in Switzerland, for what the presidency described as “routine” medical tests. His campaign manager told Algeria’s El Khabar newspaper on Thursday that his health raised “no concerns”.