Algeria: President Bouteflika finally promises to stand down

Algerian president back home amid mass protests against him

Algerian president back home amid mass protests against him

Hundreds of protesters have marched through the Algerian capital demanding President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's immediate resignation.

"Algeria is turning into a monarchy against the people's will", Sabeha, who took part in demonstrations in Algiers on Monday, told Al Jazeera.

- February 22: Tens of thousands of people demonstrate in several cities including the capital Algiers, where protests have been banned since 2001, chanting "No fifth term". "The battle is not won". "Bouteflika asked for another year and he got his way".

"It's a very important moment because power in Algeria has never backed down", said Benjamin Stora, a leading historian of Algeria.

The security forces have been mostly restrained during the demonstrations, a signal of the establishment's eroding willingness to keep the president in power through force.

French policymakers remain concerned about the risk of political instability in the energy-rich country, which has seen more than two weeks of peaceful demonstrations against Bouteflika. However, he still intends to hang on at least until a successor is chosen, in an election that so far has not been scheduled.

"We were waiting for the Algerian power to find a ruse to stay in place", said North Africa analyst Khadija Mohsen-Finan of the French Institute for worldwide and Strategic Affairs, suggesting this is exactly what happened.

The television reporter said that the majority of Algerians reject Bouteflika's decision to postpone the election.




The conference will be accompanied by a national referendum to rewrite the constitution. Moreover, Bouteflika promised to name an interim government. "Delaying the elections doesn't mean they're cancelled; it's a tactic to maintain the status quo, at least temporarily".

The conference should finish its work by the end of 2019, with elections to follow, he said in a statement.

France, home to a large Algerian population and with close economic ties to its former colony, has been watching the protests closely.

"Bouteflika is welcome if he comes back but we do not need him at the presidency", said Aziz, a 17-year-old student. On Sunday, a general strike was announced, threatening to paralyse the country.

Social media posts implored citizens to enact civil disobedience and refuse to attend their jobs for the rest of the working week.

Why have the protests continued?

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'The reason some people spoke of victory was the fact that he announced his withdrawal.

"The entire world, and all of Algeria knows that he is no longer of this world", he told reporters, charging that powerful players in Algeria had an interest in maintaining the illusion that Bouteflika was alive to keep their grip on power in the country.

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