Algeria barristers join strike against Bouteflika re-election

Algerian lawyers hold placards as they protest against their ailing president's bid for a fifth term in power, in the northeastern city of Annaba on March 11, 2019. - The lawyers, launching a 48-hour action, are demanding that the Constitutional Council, which has until Thursday to rule on candidacies for Algeria's April 18 presidential election, rule out Bouteflika's bid on the grounds of "incapacity" to carry out the role. (Photo by - / AFP)

Barristers across Algeria on Monday joined strike action against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in office, a day after the ailing leader’s return from hospital in Switzerland.

The lawyers launched a 48-hour walkout to demand the Constitutional Council reject Bouteflika’s re-election bid on the grounds of “incapacity” to carry out the role.

The Council has until Thursday to rule on candidates for Algeria’s April 18 election.

Magistrates have also been called to strike, although Justice Minister Tayeb Louh has stressed they were duty-bound to remain neutral. 

“Justice must keep its distance from political tensions,” he said.

Bouteflika’s return from Geneva — where he spent the past two weeks in — came as protest strikes Sunday shut down the capital’s public transport system and many schools across Algeria.

The 82-year-old president, who suffered a stroke in 2013, left Algeria on February 24 for what the described as “routine medical checks”.

Demonstrations against Bouteflika’s bid for another term have brought tens of thousands of protesters onto Algeria’s streets for each of the last three Fridays, with smaller demonstrations taking place on other days.

Bouteflika, who has been in power since 1999 and whose rare public appearances since his stroke have been in a wheelchair, has made no public comment since his return to the country.

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