Algerian authorities have ordered an early start to the spring university holiday, an apparent attempt to weaken two weeks of student-led protests against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
The Higher Education Ministry’s decision came today after tens of thousands of demonstrators packed central Algiers to challenge the veteran leader’s 20-year-old rule in the biggest protests in the capital in 28 years.
Without giving a reason for the move, the Ministry said in a decree that the spring break would be brought forward by 10 days, starting on Sunday instead of March 20. Algerians desperate for jobs and angry at unemployment, corruption and an elderly elite seen as out of touch with the young have taken to the streets since Feb. 22 to protest the 82-year-old’s plans to seek a fifth term in an April 18 election.
Many of the demonstrations started at university premises before spilling out onto the streets. The ailing Bouteflika is in hospital in Geneva and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013.