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Students stage protests across Algeria against president

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Hundreds of students staged protests on Tuesday in several university cities across Algeria to voice their opposition to ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term.

Following massive street protests last week, students skipped classes and answered calls posted on social networks to join the gatherings held on campuses. The 81-year-old Bouteflika's announcement this month that he would seek a new term in the April 18 presidential election has unleashed a wave of protests in the country. Bouteflika, who came to power 20 years ago, has been seen in public only a few times a year during his entire fourth term after a 2013 stroke left him largely infirm.

Yet many Algerians likely would vote for Bouteflika again, fearing his departure could lead to government instability. Students chanted slogans hostile to Bouteflika that included "No to a fifth term" and "Algeria wants change." In several cities, they managed to walk through security cordons near universities and gathered in the streets for peaceful marches.

"We are here today to make a change, to change things because the situation is rotten," said a protester in Algiers who identified herself as Amina. "We are against the fifth term, and we have to act hand in hand to change things in this country."

At the Benaknoun university in Algiers, students blocked traffic and placed a coffin-shaped board in the middle of the road on top of which they put an Algerian flag and a picture of Bouteflika. "Good-bye Bouteflika, Good-bye Bouteflika," chanted the students as they walked around the coffin.

The students' protests came a day after lawyers took to the streets to protest Bouteflika's decision. Journalists have called for protests on Wednesday to denounce the censorship hitting state media, which have been prevented from covering the latest wave of protests.

"There is a popular will for a political change in the country. A peaceful change," said Faycal Metaoui, a local journalist. "There is also a political current within the government calling for a change, because it's the only solution. Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia says the change will come from the ballot boxes, but according to the opposition elections are rigged."

On Friday, thousands of Algerians demonstrated in the biggest protests since Bouteflika came to power 20 years ago, and a new round of protests has been scheduled Friday.

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