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posted: 3/15/2014 12:26 PM

Algeria activists stage rare anti-government protest

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  • Demonstrators from the "Barakat!" ("Enough") group protest during a rally against Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Saturday, March 15, in Algiers. About 100 Algerian activists from a new anti-government movement staged a rare protest Saturday against the ailing president and his decision to run for a fourth term. Elections will take place on April 17.

      Demonstrators from the "Barakat!" ("Enough") group protest during a rally against Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Saturday, March 15, in Algiers. About 100 Algerian activists from a new anti-government movement staged a rare protest Saturday against the ailing president and his decision to run for a fourth term. Elections will take place on April 17.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

ALGIERS, Algeria -- About 100 Algerian activists from a new anti-government movement staged a rare protest Saturday against the ailing president and his decision to run for a fourth term.

While there was a heavy police presence, officers didn't violently disperse the young protesters from the "Barakat!" ("Enough") group like they did in similar demonstrations earlier this month.

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"The state backed off after the images of repression from last week," group co-founder Amina Bouraoua said. "We will continue our fight against the election and the system."

The 77-year-old president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, will be running for a fourth term after 15 years in power, despite having a stroke last year that has made his speech and movement difficult. While six candidates have been approved for the April 17 elections, Bouteflika is expected to win with the backing of the powerful machinery of the state.

The oil and gas-rich North African nation has a tightly controlled political system dominated by the military and a ruling party. Most of Algeria's economy relies on its hydrocarbon wealth and so produces few jobs for its rapidly expanding population of 38 million.

Despite Barakat's small numbers and the heavy opposition it faces from a powerful state, local analysts are describing it as an important development. They say it brings to mind Egypt's Kifaya (Enough) movement against President Hosni Mubarak that eventually led to the uprising that overthrew the government.

"It is an alternative to the classic political parties that have failed and it makes us think of the youth behind the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt," said Rachid Tlemcani, a political analyst at University of Algiers, who said the movement's rough treatment by authorities showed the system's insecurity. "It is afraid that this movement could be a catalyst for a wider conflagration because all the ingredients for an explosion are there."

Algeria was barely affected by wave of pro-democracy protests that swept the Arab world in 2011, in part many say because of a decadelong battle against an Islamist insurgency in the 1990s that left 200,000 dead.

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