Algeria celebrates as its ailing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika quits after weeks of protests

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By Web Master

There have been six weeks of mostly peaceful protests in an attempt to get rid of Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Hundreds of Algerians celebrated in the streets after the country’s president said he would resign, bowing to weeks of demonstrations against his 20-year rule.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika82, succumbed to six weeks of mostly peaceful protests driven by young people, and from pressure from the army.

Soon after the announcement, crowds again took to the streets – this time to celebrate.

Honking car horns, singing songs and waving Algerian flags, hundreds gathered at the central post office in the capital Algiers, an area that has become a symbol of the protest movement.

“It is the power of shame. They must all go away, they must all leave and they must be accountable,” said one of the protesters, Mohamed Bouaziz.

“And I hope it’s going to be fine for our country. We started all this movement peacefully and, if God want, we will end it peacefully.”

The Constitutional Council was expected to convene later to formalise his resignation. Under the constitution, the chairman of the upper house of parliament, Abdelkader Bensalah, will run the country for 90 days until elections are held.

 

Algerians had been calling for the removal of the elite, seen as out of touch with ordinary people.

Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah, the army chief of staff, had demanded the 82-year-old ruler be declared unfit for office. Mr Bouteflika’s health has been poor for some time.

Mr Bouteflika appeared on state TV looking frail and dressed in a traditional winter robe, to hand in his resignation letter to the head of the Constitutional Council.

In the letter, Mr Bouteflika wrote: “I have taken this step because I am keen to put an end to the current bickering.”

He has said he would quit before the end of his term on 28 April but had not given a specific date.

Mr Bouteflika was elected president in 1999 and established himself by ending the civil war. He suffered a stroke in 2013 and has been largely absent from public view since then.

Algeria is a key OPEC oil producer and gas supplier for Europe, and has been a partner in the fight against militants.

However, Mr Bouteflika is accused of failing to create an economy that could offer enough jobs, despite the nation’s vast oil and gas wealth.

More than a quarter of Algerians are under 30 years old, and about 70% of the population is unemployed.

Some say the demonstrations may continue despite the leader’s resignation. As Mr Bouteflika’s power began to slip, some protesters had already turned their focus to rejecting a caretaker government which was appointed on Sunday.

Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui will head the caretaker government, but the opposition say he is too close to the ruling elite, which has included business figures and veterans who fought in the 1954-62 war of independence against France.

It is not clear what will happen to the president’s entourage which includes his younger brother Said Bouteflika, who is a top counsellor blamed by protesters for the corruption in Algeria, which suffers a drastic gap between rich and poor.

One person died as a result of the protests – a man aged about 60 who had a heart attack. Most rallies were peaceful and protesters even cleaned up the streets before going home.

Protests were originally not covered by the media. Supporters of Mr Bouteflika gradually abandoned him and the army moved from their position staying inside the barracks to increasing pressure on the leadership.

 

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