Algeria judges refuse to oversee vote if Bouteflika participates

Algeria judges refuse to oversee vote if Bouteflika participates

ALGIERS- Reuters
Algeria judges refuse to oversee vote if Bouteflika participates

More than 1,000 Algerian judges said they would refuse to oversee the country's election next month if President Abdelaziz Bouteflika contests it, in one of the biggest blows to the ailing leader since protests started more than two weeks ago.

In a statement on March 11, the judges added that they were forming a new association. Bouteflika returned to Algeria on March 10 after undergoing medical treatment in Switzerland.

Tens of thousands from all social classes have been demonstrating unrelentingly for three weeks against his decision to stand in April's election, rejecting a stale political system dominated by veterans of an independence war against France that ended in 1962.

The protesters have rejected his offer to limit his term if he wins the vote.

In the clearest indication yet that the generals sympathize with protesters, the chief of staff said the military and the people had a united vision of the future, state TV reported. Lieutenant General Gaed Salah did not mention the unrest.

Hours before Bouteflika's arrival, his ruling FLN party urged all sides to work together to end the crisis and promote national reconciliation, Ennahar TV said.

The 82-year-old president has rarely been seen in public since a stroke in 2013. Last April, he appeared in Algiers in a wheelchair. 

Bouteflika managed to remain in power as the 2011 "Arab Spring" uprising toppled autocrats in neighboring countries mainly because Algeria had enough foreign reserves to boost state spending.

Even if Bouteflika's position becomes untenable, it is not clear who could replace him.

Algeria, Bouteflika, judges