Algerians took to the streets in celebration yesterday evening after ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that he had abandoned his decision to seek a fifth term, bowing to weeks of mass demonstrations against his 20-year rule.
Tens of thousands of people from all social classes have been demonstrating almost daily against Bouteflika’s decision to stand in the election, rejecting a stale political system dominated for nearly 60 years by veterans of an independence war against France.
In a series of announcements yesterday evening, the presidency said the election, previously set for April, would now be postponed. It did not set a new date.
More than 1,000 judges in Algeria have said they will refuse to oversee next month’s election if Bouteflika is a candidate. The judges said in a statement that they would not act against the will of the people.
Clerics said they would not accept government orders about what to preach. The president said he is creating a new government and a new constitution would be submitted to the public for a referendum. He also promised political and economic reforms.
After the announcement of the president’s decision to abandon his fifth term bid, a crowd of demonstrators took to the streets waving a huge Algerian flag. Hundreds of people, young and old, joined the throng, jumping up and down with excitement. Cars beeped their horns in approval.
“Our protests have borne fruit! We defeated the supporters of the fifth term!” said taxi-driver Mohamed Kaci, 50. Bouteflika, 82, has ruled for 20 years but has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013.
His opponents say they do not believe he is in a fit state to run the country, one of Africa’s biggest oil producers, and suspected he was being kept in place to protect the grip of the military and business elite.
Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia resigned and Interior Minister Noureddine Bedoui, who is not known as a member of Bouteflika’s inner circle, was named as the new prime minister. Ramtane Lamamra, a diplomatic advisor to Bouteflika, was named deputy prime minister.
Bouteflika also met his army chief of staff, Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gaed Salah.