Restive Algeria awaits decisive move from returned president

Combined Shape

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Algeria’s president of two decades abandoned his bid for a fifth term Monday following unprecedented protests over his fitness for office, but his simultaneous postponement of an election set for next month had critics worried he intends to hold on to power.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has rarely been seen in public since he had a stroke in 2013 and just returned from two weeks in a Geneva hospital, promised to establish a panel to plan a rescheduled vote and to put an interim government in place.

In a letter to the nation released by state news agency APS on Monday, Bouteflika, 82, stressed the importance of including Algeria’s disillusioned youth in the reform process and putting the country “in the hands of new generations.”

But for many of the protesters – students, lawyers and even judges among them – the most important sentence in the president’s letter read, “There will be no fifth term.”

Celebrations popped up instead of protests on the streets of the capital, Algiers, at the news. Car horns rang out while people waved flags, jumped up and down, and sang the national anthem. Several thanked Bouteflika. One described the development as a “real ray of sunshine.

Trending:
New York AG: CNN, MSNBC Parent Companies Funded Millions of Phony Comments to Sway Trump Administration

Others were more cautious, calling their longtime leader’s pledge to step aside just a first step. Bouteflika did not give a date or timeline for the delayed election.

He said in his Monday letter that the “national conference” he would task with planning the vote also would be responsible for drafting a new constitution for Algeria.

He said he would name an interim government as well. The changes were put in motion within hours.

Noureddine Bedoui, a Bouteflika loyalist and the current interior minister, was made prime minister and charged with forming the new administration, according to Algerian state news agency APS.

Critics said they fear the moves could pave the way for the president to install a hand-picked successor. Others saw his decision to postpone the election indefinitely as a threat to democracy in Algeria.

A wily political survivor, Bouteflika fought in Algeria’s independence war against French forces and has played a role in Algeria’s major developments for the past half-century.

He became president in 1999 and reconciled a nation riven by a deadly Islamic insurgency, but questions swirl over whether he is really running the country today.

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.

Algerians also expressed anger over corruption that put their country’s oil and gas riches in the hands of a few while millions of young people struggle to find jobs.

Related:
Fresh Off Losing a House Seat, California Reports Population Decline for the First Time Ever

The unprecedented citizens’ revolt drew millions into the streets of cities across the country to demand that Bouteflika abandon his candidacy.

On Monday, Algerian state television aired the first images of Bouteflika since the protests started. Bouteflika, who has used a wheelchair since his stroke, appeared weak and moved with slow gestures. No sound accompanied the images.

While the tense nation waited to see if he would make any concessions now that he was back from his hospital stay, teenagers and lawyers held protests, and workers held scattered walkouts,

Security was high in Algiers, where some businesses were shuttered by a second day of strikes. Lawyers in black robes gathered in front of courthouses to join calls for Bouteflika to withdraw from the election.

Some judges joined the lawyers protesting in the city of Bedjaia. Judges normally are prohibited from publicly demonstrating, as are police officers and soldiers.

___

Lotfi Bouchouchi in Algiers and Thomas Adamson and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →






We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

Tags:
The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands.
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
Location
New York City




Conversation