Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika Pulls Out Amid Protests

14 March, 2019, 07:15 | Author: Rachel Logan
  • Lakhdar Brahimi

Huge crowds gathered in several cities and Ennahar TV reported workers began a strike that paralyzed operations at the Mediterranean port at Bajaia. But in the capital, aside from a few hundred protesters, life carried on normally.

The recent protests surprised Algeria's opaque leadership and freed the country's people, long fearful of a watchful security apparatus, to openly criticize the president.

Moreover, the president said that he would seek major changes to the country's government and that an inclusive and independent national conference would oversee reforms and the drafting of a new constitution.

The army will likely rely on respected figures like Brahimi, and old friend of Bouteflika, to mediate.

"What gave the Algerian political system force was that it appeared to speak with a single voice and have the same objectives", said analyst Mohsen Finan.

Because of his state of health and his age, the 82-year-old president added: "There will be no fifth term and it was never discussed for me".

Algerians have become disenchanted with Bouteflika and other veterans of the 1954-62 war of independence against France who have dominated a country with high unemployment, poor services and rampant corruption despite its oil and gas.

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But he argued the country needed "a transition in a reasonable timeframe" from Bouteflika's 20-year rule.

However, more than two-thirds of Algerians are now under 30, and are seeking a more "democratic Algeria" as they chanted in the protests.

Ghania Bellal, a journalism student, said Bouteflika "is mocking us". Meanwhile, former minister of foreign affairs and Bouteflika's close ally Ramtane Lamamra was named deputy prime minister - a position created on Monday by presidential decree.

According to the time frame outlined, a national conference supposed to "represent all the currents of the society" must fix a date for the next presidential election and to present, at the end of 2019, a new constitution which will be put to a popular referendum.

Macron called the outcome "a sign of maturity". Others saw his decision to postpone the election indefinitely as a threat to democracy in Algeria. "We want a republican and democratic state", one message calling for demonstrations said.

The change was announced days before Algeria's Constitutional Council was due to certify the legitimacy of candidates running for the presidency.

Among them is Mustafa Bouchachi, a lawyer and activist who has built up a strong Facebook following 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.

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