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Algerian protesters unrelenting

Algeria has been rocked for more than a month by unprecedented protests against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, sparked by his bid for a fifth term after two decades in power.

On Tuesday, the army chief, Ahmed Gaid Salah, called for the 82-year-old leader to be declared unfit to rule as a way out of the crisis.

Here is a timeline:

First protests

On February 22, tens of thousands of people demonstrate in several cities in the first major protests against Bouteflika’s intention to stand in April 18 elections.

After rallying calls on social media, thousands turn out, including in Algiers, where demonstrations have been banned since 2001. “No fifth mandate,” they chant.

Police fire tear gas to block a march on the presidential palace, prompting demonstrators to respond with stone-throwing.

Hundreds demonstrate in Algiers again on February 24.

Warning

In the first official reaction, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia on February 25 calls for “vigilance” at demonstrations.

On February 26, thousands of students rally peacefully in Algiers.

Two days later, a dozen journalists are detained for several hours while participating in a rally against alleged censorship of protest coverage.

The prime minister compares the growing protest movement with the demonstrations that erupted in Syria in 2011 and sparked a war, now in its ninth year.

On March 1, tens of thousands protest around the country.

“Regime murderers,” some chant in Algiers. There are also marches in the second- and third-largest cities, Oran and Constantine.

READ MORE: Bouteflika drops bid for fifth term after protests

Final term pledge

On March 2, Bouteflika, in Switzerland for nearly a week for “routine medical checks”, sacks his veteran campaign manager.

The next day, hundreds of students stage new protests in various cities, some chanting: “Bouteflika go away.”

That evening a letter from the president is read on state television in which he says this run will be his last. He vows not to serve a full term if re-elected and to organise early polls in which he would not stand.

Shortly afterwards, his new campaign manager formally submits the president’s candidacy, just ahead of the deadline.

READ MORE: Bouteflika ‘returns’ to strike-hit Algeria from Geneva

‘Chaos’

On March 5, as thousands march again and the army chief pledges to guarantee national security, accusing unidentified groups of wanting a return to the “painful years” of Algeria’s 1992-2002 civil war.

Bouteflika on March 7 warns of “chaos” if troublemakers infiltrate the demonstrations.

On March 8, tens of thousands in several cities take part in the biggest rallies yet against Bouteflika’s candidacy.

Bouteflika quits race

On March 10, Bouteflika returns from Switzerland. The next day, he pulls out of the race. “There will not be a fifth term” and “there will be no presidential election on April 18”, he announces on official media.

Interior Minister Noureddine Bedoui is named prime minister.

But students and teachers are back on the streets on March 12 and 13.

On March 15, a huge crowd marches through Algiers for a fourth consecutive Friday, demanding Bouteflika’s ousting. Major protests are held in other key cities.

Holding on

On March 18, Bouteflika issues a statement confirming he will stay on as president beyond the end of his term on April 28 and until new elections are held, after a constitutional review.

On March 19, tens of thousands of students, joined by medics, demonstrate in Algiers, shouting: “Students are committed, the system must go!”

On March 20, Bouteflika’s National Liberation Front (FLN) party says it supports protesters’ calls for change, and advocate his initiative for dialogue.

‘Unfit’

On March 22, exactly a month after the protests started, hundreds of thousands of Algerians again stage demonstrations around the country, despite bad weather.

On Tuesday, Salah says the way out of the crisis is to invoke article 102 of the Constitution under which a president can be removed from office if he is found unfit to rule.—AFP

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