Bouteflika decision to run again stirs mixed reactions in Algiers press

An Algerian reads a newspaper at a bus station next to a banner showing the Algerian flag with a portrait of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in the capital Algiers on February 11, 2019, as the country prepares for the upcoming presidential election scheduled for April 18. (AFP)
Updated 11 February 2019

Bouteflika decision to run again stirs mixed reactions in Algiers press

  • The 81-year-old head of state on Sunday announced will run for another term in April polls

ALGIERS: Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s decision to seek a fifth term as president despite his ailing health stirred mixed reactions on Monday in the Algerian press, with one newspaper describing it as risky as “Russian roulette” and another welcoming his pledge of reforms.
The 81-year-old head of state, who uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, on Sunday announced will run for another term in April polls.
He spoke of an “unwavering desire to serve” despite his health constraints and pledged to set up an “inclusive national conference” to address political and economic reforms.
“A frightening candidacy,” headlined the French-language El-Watan newspaper on its front page.
It compared Bouteflika’s determination to stay in power to a game of “Russian roulette,” running a cartoon of the ailing president as a single bullet in the chamber of a handgun.
A fifth mandate for Bouteflika “will only serve to aggravate the woes resulting from his previous mandates,” wrote El-Watan.
It said his campaign chief Abdelmalek Sellal would have to work hard “to persuade Algerians to vote for a practically bedridden man” although his duties call on him to travel and work long hours.
In contrast, Reporters, another daily, welcomed the president’s pledge to bring in “deep reforms” saying it could accommodate opposition demands for change.
The TSA news website said it was clear that Bouteflika “despite his age and his illness.. has no intention of” quitting as president despite a “thirst for change” in Algeria.
“This fifth mandate is one too many,” it said.
The French-language Liberte said Bouteflika had dangled the promise of reforms as a payoff for staying on for another five years.
Bouteflika’s widely expected announcement also had a mixed reception on the streets of Algiers.
Housewife Aicha Zaidi said she would vote for Bouteflika because “thanks to him I have decent housing for my family.”
But Hamid Bramimi, 75, said that Algeria had become “the laughing stock of the world with a president who is invisible.”


Dozens of Iraqi protestors wounded as anti-government unrest resumes

Updated 6 min 13 sec ago

Dozens of Iraqi protestors wounded as anti-government unrest resumes

  • In Baghdad’s Tayaran Square overnight, protesters threw petrol bombs and stones at police
  • Baghdad police said its forces had successfully reopened all the roads that were closed by “violent gatherings.”

BAGHDAD: Dozens of Iraqi protestors were wounded in Baghdad and other cities on Monday in clashes with security forces who were trying to clear blocked roads, security and medical sources said, as anti-government unrest resumed after a lull of several weeks.

In Baghdad’s Tayaran Square overnight, protestors threw petrol bombs and stones at police who responded with tear gas and stun grenades, Reuters witnesses said.

Elsewhere in southern Iraq, hundreds of protestors burned tires and blocked main roads in several cities, including Nassiriya, Kerbala and Amara. They say Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has not fulfilled promises including naming a new government acceptable to Iraqis.

“They (security forces) should stop shooting and aiming, who are they and who we are? Both sides are Iraqis. So why are you killing your brothers?” said one woman protestor in Baghdad who declined to give her name.

Baghdad police said its forces had successfully reopened all the roads that were closed by “violent gatherings.”

Mass protests have gripped Iraq since Oct. 1, with mostly young protesters demanding an overhaul of a political system they see as profoundly corrupt and as keeping most Iraqis in poverty. More than 450 people have been killed.

Numbers had dwindled but protests resumed last week as demonstrators sought to keep up momentum after attention turned to the threat of a US-Iran conflict following Washington’s killing of Tehran’s top general in an air strike inside Iraq.

The killing of Qassem Soleimani, to which Tehran responded with a ballistic missile attack on two Iraqi military bases, has highlighted the influence of some foreign powers in Iraq, especially Iran and the United States.