President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is expected to return to Algeria on Sunday after two weeks in a Swiss hospital as he faces mass protests that pose the biggest threat to his 20-year rule.
A source familiar with the matter told Reuters Bouteflika would return on Sunday and Ennahar TV said he was expected to land around 1100 GMT.
An Algerian government plane landed at Geneva’s Cointrin airport earlier on Sunday. A Reuters witness saw the Gulfstream executive jet, the one which had taken Bouteflika to Geneva on February 24, touch down at the airport amid a heavy police presence.
There was no immediate sign of any ambulance or motorcade carrying the 82-year-old Bouteflika. The ailing president has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013.
Tens of thousands of people of all social classes have protested over the past three weeks over his decision to stand in April’s election. Algerians show no sign of backing down despite Bouteflika’s offer to limit his term after the election.
Algeria’s ruling FLN party called on Sunday on all sides to work together to end the political crisis, Ennahar TV said. It wants national reconciliation and to preserve security and stability, the station said.
Hundreds of students took to the streets of the capital chanting “Bouteflika, there will be no fifth term” on Sunday. Many shops in Algiers are closed.
It is not just young Algerians desperate for jobs and angry at unemployment, corruption and an elderly elite who are protesting. Older Algerians haunted by a civil war in the 1990s have tolerated crackdowns on dissent in exchange for stability. Some of them are now appearing at rallies.
“We need a new generation to govern us and secure a better future for our children,” said pensioner Ahmed, 63.
For years, rumors have swirled about potential successors to Bouteflika, but no one credible has emerged who has the backing of the army and elite and is not in their 70s or 80s.
The military has stayed in barracks.
Several public figures, including members of Bouteflika’s FLN party and lawmakers have resigned to join the rallies against a political system dominated by war veterans since independence from France in 1962.
Two branches of the powerful Algerian labour union UGTA, representing tens of thousands of workers, also opposed the re-election plan. Lawyers have also joined rallies.
Algerians packed central Algiers to capacity on Friday in the biggest protests in the capital in 28 years. Security forces detained 195 people, state television said, citing offences such as looting.