Algerians Take to Streets Despite Bouteflika Concessions

Algerians bemused as Bouteflika pulls out of presidential race postpones election

Algerian president back home amid mass protests against him

"They're just 13-year-old kids".

A declaration by judges yesterday that they would refuse to oversee the election seems to have been the final straw.

Why have the protests continued?


Monday marked the biggest jolt, when 82-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika renounced a fifth presidential term, reshuffled his government, proclaimed the drafting of a new constitution and rescheduled presidential elections initially set for April to an unspecified date.

Despite the government's efforts to contain the protests, some workers in the energy sector, which accounts for an estimated 30%of the country's GDP, joined the strike on Sunday, the first day of the working week in Algeria.

Then late on Monday, the president told the nation that he "understood the motivation of many people who chose this method of expression", and said he would be stepping down.

In a letter to the nation, Bouteflika stressed the importance of including Algeria's disillusioned youth in the reform process and putting the country "in the hands of new generations".

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

Algerian president back home amid mass protests against him

"We have taken to the streets today to protest a fifth presidential term".

"For us, this news is essentially an extension of the mandate of the current president, [but] it has no constitutional basis", he said.

"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. At the time, he said that if he won, he would call for new elections within one year.

"There will not be a fifth term", Bouteflika said in a message carried by the official APS news agency, while suggesting that he would remain in office until his term expires on April 28. Of particular significance is the fate of Le Pouvoir - the shadowy group that includes his brother Said.

The Algerian leader's announcement brought crowds back onto the streets in celebration on Monday evening.

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

"It means inventing our own transition model", she said, adding, "it's too early to say what it will be".

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. "I'm both happy and confused because there's still so much more that needs to happen", said Nourhane Atmani, a student who took part in the protests.

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