Celebrations as Algeria's president announces he won't run for 5th term

Thursday, 14 Mar, 2019

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

Algerians took to the streets late Monday to celebrate the withdrawal of the president from the upcoming election, according to local media.

The white Gulfstream 4SP jet, with "People's Democratic Republic of Algeria" written on the side and the Algerian flag on the tail, landed at the Geneva global airport Cointrin shortly before 10am. Cars honked horns and families poured out into the streets.

"Our protests have borne fruit!" Algeria has stagnated for decades under veterans of the independence war who dominate the country.

Lakhdar Brahimi, a former foreign minister and United Nations special envoy, is expected to chair the conference that will oversee the transition, draft a new constitution and set the date for elections, the source told Reuters. The conference, due to finish its work by the end of 2019, will submit a new constitution to voters in a referendum.

"Since I was born, the only (president) I've known is Bouteflika", said Amina, a young protesting girl who asked not to give her full name.

But Bouteflika pledged to appoint a new government and a separate "national conference" tasked with rescheduling the election and drafting a new constitution. "The conference should strive to complete its mandate by the end of 2019", added Bouteflika. 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. In a speech to military academy students Sunday, the chief of staff for Algeria's armed forces, Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah, said the army shared "the same values and principles" as the people.

Sources told Reuters a conference on "planning Algeria's future" will be held soon, chaired by former foreign minister and United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. "We must turn this crisis into a constructive process".

Protesters wave Algerian flags and hold posters opposing Algeria President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term in Paris Sunday
Algerian government plane heads north, destination unclear

Many protesters view Bouteflika's decision as a manoeuvre to stifle the protest movement and to maintain the status quo, at least temporarily.

Former colonial ruler France welcomed Bouteflika's decision.

"We have won the battle".

The president's announcement came a day after he returned home after a two-week stay in a Swiss hospital, where he has been for treatment since suffering a stroke in 2013.

Top clerics had already criticised pressure on them to issue pro-government sermons.

The protests have shattered years of political inertia and unsettled Algeria's opaque but powerful security establishment.

The protests are not expected to abate anytime soon, with another demonstration scheduled for Friday. They're also angry at what's seen as a corrupt and out-of-touch power structure that has grown rich under Bouteflika while millions see little gain from the country's gas wealth.

- January 30, 2016: He tightens his grip on power by disbanding the DRS intelligence agency, considered by many a "state within a state".