Algeria president drops bid for fifth term

Erika Holt
March 14, 2019

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika bowed to unprecedented public protests Monday and promised not to seek a fifth term after 20 years in power.

Reutersreported "huge crowds" in cities across Algeria on Tuesday and a labor strike underway at the Mediterranean port city of Bajaia. But in the capital, aside from a few hundred protesters, life carried on normally.

Algerian media and protest leaders expect Monday to be a decisive day for the gas-rich North African country after Bouteflika returned home Sunday from two weeks in a Swiss hospital.

The president announced on Monday that a "national conference" would set a new date for polls that he would not contest.

While Brahimi is widely respected, he and other people of his generation may not fit the profile of figures who can deliver an energetic Algeria full of fresh ideas.

"The whole system must disappear immediately".

On Tuesday morning, dozens of people staged rallied in central Algiers, chanting: "We want this system to go". "Bouteflika and his regime can't lead a transitional phase simply because those who are the problem can't become the solution at the same time".

"There will not be a fifth term", Bouteflika said in a message carried by the official APS news agency, while suggesting that he would remain in office until his term expires on April 28. Ramtane Lamamra, who was Bouteflika's diplomatic adviser, was appointed deputy prime minister, it said. These will be thrashed out at "an inclusive and independent national conference" to involve "the largest possible and most representative participation of the Algerian society".

Algerian president back home amid mass protests against him
Algerian president returns home after 'routine medical checks' in Geneva

"Justice must keep its distance from political tensions", he said.

Young Algerians are desperate for jobs and angry at unemployment, corruption and an elderly elite.

The election process was thrown into chaos on Monday when the current President bowed to the pressure of weeks of mass demonstrations, promising a transition to a new government.

"I think it's a sign of maturity".

"I think Algeria has drawn lessons from what's happened elsewhere", she said, adding the population has no appetite for revisiting its bloody past.

The protests have shattered years of political inertia and unsettled Algeria's opaque but powerful security establishment.

One of them includes a prominent lawyer and activist Mustafa Bouchachi, who has gained a wide following on Facebook during the protests. But critics on Algerian social media Tuesday dismissed him as a symbol of a has-been generation and member of the global elite who has spent too much time overseas to understand Algeria's current reality. Like the government, many of Algeria's traditional opposition parties are largely discredited by the public.

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