Massive demonstrations in Algeria against ailing President's re-election

Algerians protest against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term at a rally Friday in Algiers.

Algiers, Algeria (CNN)Security forces fired tear gas Friday as demonstrators staged one of Algeria's biggest protests in decades, days before ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is set to run formally for a fifth term.

Protesters are demanding that the 81-year-old leader withdraw from the April 18 election. A sea of protesters filled multiple streets in the capital, Algiers, and other cities across the North African country in what's considered one of the largest displays of public discontent since the 1954-1962 war of independence from France.
Bouteflika, who was elected in 1999, suffered a stroke in 2013 and has rarely been seen in public since then. He announced his intention to seek a fifth term February 10 in a statement published by the state news agency. The move sparked anger on Algerian streets and ignited a countrywide string of protests.
It is widely believed that the President is largely incapacitated, leaving the reins of the country in the hands of a military and civilian elite.
    Algerians chant slogans under a national flag Friday in the capital.
    He is expected to submit a formal application to seek re-election Sunday, prompting demonstrators to mobilize over the past week.
    The opaque group surrounding the President -- known as le pouvoir, or the power -- is believed to have been unable to choose a successor to ensure the continuity of the National Liberation Front, the country's ruling party.
    On Friday, protesters chanted, "Republic, not monarchy," and "No to the fifth mandate," among other slogans rejecting the continuation of Bouteflika's term. Some placards read "leave means leave."
    "Why do they want to impose upon us a sick president who cannot even address the nation?" asked 56-year-old protester Filali Badredine, a manager in a private company.
    Mohamed Abdellah, 58, said, "The President is sick. The whole country is sick."
    Protesters also called for the dissolution of parliament and the cancellation of the upcoming presidential elections.
    Dozens of protesters were arrested during Friday's demonstrations, a local activist told CNN.