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Algerians continue protests amid fears Bouteflika looking to stay in power

Bouteflika's decision to not seek fifth mandate has been met with scepticism, as protesters vow to keep up pressure
People take part in a protest demanding immediate political change in Algiers (Reuters)

One day after Algerians celebrated in the streets over President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's decision to not seek a fifth presidential term, thousands gathered to protest the ailing ruler's move to scrap next month's elections.

Huge crowds gathered in several cities across Algeria on Tuesday, Reuters and AFP reported, only hours after the ailing president announced he would not seek reelection.

In a statement shared by the Algeria Press Service on Monday, Bouteflika, 82, said "there will not be a fifth term", bowing to weeks of mass demonstrations against his 20-year rule.

He also cancelled the presidential election, scheduled for 18 April, and promised to "make important changes in government".

No fifth term for Algeria's Bouteflika who... remains in power
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Student demonstrators, however, expressed anger on Tuesday at Bouteflika's decision.

"It's a ploy to win time ... in order to put in place another puppet like the [current] president," a student who gave her name as Amel told AFP.

Ghania Bellal, a journalism student, told the news agency that Bouteflika "is mocking us".

"Right from the start he wanted to extend his term," she said. "He got what he wanted ... illegally."

Demonstrators gathered for hours in central Algiers before dispersing late afternoon. AFP reported that some held up signs that read, "No extra time. This is not a football match."

Students also took to the streets of major cities Oran and Constantine, where they were joined by professors, local journalists said.

Local station Ennahar TV also reported that workers began a strike that paralysed operations at the Mediterranean port at Bejaia, Reuters reported.

Bouteflika's attempt to secure a fifth mandate, after two decades in power, pushed tens of thousands into the streets to call for his resignation.

Students, lawyers, journalists, trade unionists and even members of Bouteflika's own National Liberation Front (FLN) Party had also added their voices to the protesters' call for the president not to seek reelection.

Over 1,000 Algerian judges on Sunday said they would refuse to oversee the country's elections if Bouteflika ran for a fifth term.

Walid Laggoune, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Algiers, told public radio: "The constitution does not provide for any provision on the postponement of elections."

A source close to Bouteflika's campaign team told Middle East Eye on Tuesday that the president has two options to remain in power: changing the constitution or imposing a state of emergency.

"Either a change in the constitution, which will take time, or the use of Article 107, which allows the president to take exceptional measures in case of 'imminent danger to its institutions, to its independence or to its territorial integrity'," the source said.

Even though Algeria's youth and women are taking charge of the demonstrations - roughly a quarter of Algerians under 30 are unemployed, according to World Bank data - many others have expressed dissatisfaction with the ruler.

"We do not need Bouteflika to decide on behalf of the people," 50-year-old grocer Ahmed Beddine told Reuters on Tuesday.