April 09, 2014

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Demonstrators threw stones at the Algerian prime minister’s motorcade during an election campaign event Wednesday— the latest incident protesting the president’s expected re-election.

Incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika is widely predicted to win the April 17 presidential election, despite suffering a stroke that left him unable to walk or campaign. Bouteflika’s campaign is instead being carried out by Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and other top government officials, several of whom have been targeted by protests.

Journalists at the scene in a southern desert town of Metlili said protesters first heckled Sellal’s speech and then pelted his motorcade with stones, before being driven away by police with tear gas.

The town is in the province of Ghardaia, where Arab-Berber riots over the past few months have killed seven people. Some 40 people were wounded in clashes there Monday. On Saturday, protesters in the city of Bejaia burned down the venue for another campaign speech by Sellal and clashed with police resulting in 15 wounded.

Thousands of students staged a peaceful protest against Bouteflika in the same town on Tuesday. The protesters oppose a fourth term for the ailing 77-year-old Bouteflika, who has run the country since 1999 and changed the constitution in 2008 so he could serve further terms.

Dozens of young men chanted “enough” outside the venue of a pro-Bouteflika rally in the city of Batna Wednesday, but were dispersed by police. Many of the protesters claim allegiance to the “Barakat” — which means “enough” — movement that opposes Bouteflika’s lock on power, but on the whole their demonstrations have been small and scattered.

While Bouteflika is expected to win overwhelmingly against the other five candidates, turnout is traditionally low in Algerian elections and apathy high.