Algerian President Abandons Bid for 5th Term Following Mass Protests (PHOTOS)

© AFP 2022A woman holds an Algerian flag during demonstrations against President Bouteflika in Algiers on 26 February
A woman holds an Algerian flag during demonstrations against President Bouteflika in Algiers on 26 February - Sputnik International
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CAIRO (Sputnik) - Algeria saw a series of important decisions made on Monday as the country's longtime president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, postponed the presidential election and withdrew his bid for re-election, while the Algerian cabinet resigned following weeks of nationwide protests.

Bouteflika, who is 82 years old, made his announcement one day after returning from Switzerland, where he had undergone a medical checkup in connection with a stroke he suffered a stroke in 2013. He has since been wheelchair-bound.

Current Situation

Thousands of Algerian students are taking part in rallies at the Place Maurice Audin and near the central post office in the country's capital of Algiers, the TSA media outlet reported. Protesters shouted slogans such as "No to term extension" and "We don't want [Noureddine] Bedoui," the former interior minister who replaced former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia after the latter resigned amid protests.

In the northern Algerian port city of Bejaia students took to the streets alongside employees of the state-owned oil and gas company Sonatrach. Bejaia's transport companies continued their strike for the third consecutive day.

Three Weeks That Changed Everything

Protests in Algeria against president’s re-election bid - Sputnik International
Algeria's Bouteflika Declares Presidential Vote Postponement, Says Won't Run
Peaceful protests began in Algeria on February 22, days after Bouteflika, who has been in power for 20 years, announced his bid to run in the April presidential election.

Opponents of his nomination, mostly young people, argued that due to his state of health, the president would be unable to effectively govern the country, which has a population of more than 40 million people and tackle the various economic and political problems that Algeria has been facing. Demonstrators demanded that the vote is postponed, while also calling for radical reforms.

The protest movement in Algeria did not have leaders or even organisers. Opposition political parties and trade unions have failed to mobilize as effectively as these demonstrators, whose main weapon has been social media.

"These were difficult days, there were no official strikes, but in fact, there were acts of disobedience", a resident of the Algerian capital told Sputnik over the phone.

READ MORE: Key Changes in Algerian Politics Unlikely Regardless of Bouteflika's Fate — Prof

In recent days most of the shops were closed, while children did not go to school, according to him.

"Many people simply came to their workplaces but did not work in protest. At the same time, nobody tells you what to do, people make decisions on their own," he added.

The president and his entourage tried to soften the situation with half measures, but the "street" rejected the compromises. As a result, Bouteflika had to pledge in a written statement that if was re-elected on April 18, he would call a snap vote and not seek a new term to ensure the transition of power to a new president within a year.

But after a few days, a record number of people took to the streets disapproving of his minor concessions.

Way Forward to the Second Republic

On Monday, the head of Algeria satisfied all the basic demands of the demonstrators, announcing in his message that he "would not run for a fifth term" and that "the election scheduled for April 18 would be postponed."

"There will be no fifth term", Bouteflika said.

Moreover, the longtime leader promised his fellow citizens a "new republic" that would be built by new generations of Algerians.

Lawyers chant slogans as they gesture near riot police outside the constitutional council during a protest denouncing an offer by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run in elections next month but not to serve a full term if re-elected, in Algiers, Algeria March 7, 2019. - Sputnik International
Hundreds of Lawyers Protest in Algeria Against Bouteflika's Candidacy - Reports
It is believed that the current political system in Algeria represents a generation of fighters for independence from France, independence from which Algeria achieved in 1962. Bouteflika himself participated in the resistance in 1963, at the age of 26, became the youngest foreign minister at the time.

Now, according to the president’s statement, an "inclusive national conference" will be set up instead of the election. It would draft a new constitution and set a date for the presidential election. The basic law will be up for approval in a national referendum.

"I pledge to hand over the duties of the president of the republic to my successor, who will be freely chosen by the Algerian people", the head of state said.

At the same time, Bouteflika has pledged to do everything to ensure that all state structures work in accordance with the country’s constitution during the transitional period.

Street Reaction

After Bouteflika’s statement on Monday evening, many Algerians took to the streets to celebrate the president's decision to withdraw his bid for re-election and launch major reforms. However, as indicated by the opposition news outlet El Watan, Algerian society has yet to assess the impact of Monday's developments.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 04, 2017 Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is seen on a wheelchair as he votes at a polling station in Algiers. - Sputnik International
Algerian President Bouteflika in Critical Condition in Geneva Hospital - Reports
In particular, the newspaper highlighted the fact that after the resignation of the government, former Interior Minister Noureddine Bedoui had been instructed to form a new cabinet, and former Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra had assumed the post of deputy prime minister.

As many Algerians already live in a 'post- Bouteflika' period and seek change in the entire political system, not everyone will find Bouteflika’s proposal convincing, according to the media outlet.

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