SHAFAQNA- Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that he will not run for a fifth term and the country’s presidential election will be postponed amid mass demonstrations against his plan to extend 20-year rule.
In a message carried by the official APS news agency on Monday, the 82-year-old also said the elections would follow a national conference on political and constitutional reform to be carried out by the end of 2019.
There will be no presidential election on April 18,” Bouteflika said in reference to the scheduled date of the vote, adding he was responding to a “pressing demand that you have been numerous to make”.
The Presidency also announced that a government reshuffle would take place soon but failed to mention when the election would take place.
Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia has also resigned, Ennahar TV reported, adding that Noureddine Bedoui — the Interior Minister since 2015 — has been named as the new prime minister.
Bouteflika has been at the helm of the North African country since 1999. The announcement that he intended to run for office for a fifth term triggered widespread protests in the country — now in their third week.
A new constitution is to be submitted to voters in a referendum, the presidency also announced, adding that Bouteflika is currently meeting with the army chief of staff.
It comes just a day after Bouteflika, 82, returned from Switzerland, where he spent two weeks in a hospital, and just hours after more than 1,000 judges said they would refuse to oversee the election if Bouteflika was on the ballot.
Bouteflika suffered a stroke in 2013 and has rarely been seen in public since.
France said it welcomed Bouteflika’s decision not to seek a fifth term and to “take measures to renew Algeria‘s political system”, euronews reported.
Celebrations popped up instead of protests on the streets of the capital, Algiers, at Monday’s news. Car horns rang out while people waved flags, jumped up and down, and sang the national anthem.
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.
“Even if this is a beautiful victory for the Algerian people and the gesture was there, I do not believe that the entire regime and its system is going to collapse,” Dalia Ghanem Yazbeck, a resident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center, told Al Jazeera.
“This is a regime that is composed of different strata and circles of power. You have the [ruling party] FLN apparatchik, you have the bureaucracy, political and military leadership and you have business tycoons,” she added.
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