Anti-Bouteflika group livens up Algeria campaign
09 April 2014, 08:03
Algiers - A protest group, founded just two months ago when ailing Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika controversially decided to seek re-election, has livened up a lacklustre campaign from which the incumbent has been entirely absent.
Activists of the Barakat (Enough) movement have made their mark by daring to argue publicly that the 77-year-old Bouteflika, who is too sick to take to the campaign trail himself, is unfit to govern.
Around 40 of them were briefly detained by the security forces when they did so at a rally in central Algiers last month.
Cofounder Amina Bouraoui says the movement was born out of a desire to establish a genuine democracy in Algeria, and frustration at an "archaic" system that has shown "contempt for the people".
"This year, we saw politicians calling on the president to seek a fourth term, even though he is very sick and has been in power for 15 years," said Bouraoui, a 38-year-old gynaecologist, in an interview with the openDemocracy website.
She said the same politicians had "violated" the constitution by controversially amending it to allow Bouteflika to seek and win a third term in 2009.
"Both physically and mentally, he is in no condition to govern. So, we decided with activist friends to go out into the street and to say 'no'."
Barakat has branches in 20 of Algeria's 48 provinces and has organised eight demonstrations since March 1, Bouraoui says.
The movement is campaigning for a boycott of the 17 April election, which it describes as a "masquerade" and "another affront to the Algerian people".
Made up mostly of activists in their 20s and 30s, the movement has so far failed to draw large crowds to its rallies, and is unlikely to prevent the expected re-election of the incumbent.
But it remains a surprise factor and an irritant for the president's campaign team, who have responded with allegations that the new group is a tool of foreign powers.