Algeria's Bouteflika warns against 'chaos' ahead of protests

Algeria's Bouteflika warns against 'chaos' ahead of protests

ALGIERS- Reuters
Algerias Bouteflika warns against chaos ahead of protests

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika issued his first warning on March 8 to protesters who have taken to the streets in thousands to demand an end to his 20-year rule, saying the unrest could destabilize the country.

In the latest demonstration, hundreds of lawyers in black robes rallied in downtown Algiers on March 8 as momentum gathered in the country's most sustained protests since the 2011 Arab Spring.

Bouteflicka, 82 and ailing, has not spoken in public since suffering a stroke in 2013 and he is staying in a hospital in Geneva.

But in a letter reported by the state news agency APS, he said: "Breaking this peaceful expression by any treacherous internal or foreign group may lead to sedition and chaos and resulting crises and woes."

He did not say who any of these groups might be.

Tens of thousands of Algerians, tired of the dominance of elderly veterans of the 1954-1962 war of independence against France, have protested for the past three weeks to urge Bouteflika not to stand in an election scheduled for April 18.

Despite his ill-health, he has submitted his candidacy papers.

The national association of lawyers has demanded that the authorities postpone the election and set up a transitional government.

The unrest poses the biggest challenge yet to Bouteflika and his inner circle, which includes members of the military, intelligence services and big business figures.

On March 7, the influential Algerian war veterans association expressed support for the so far peaceful protests.