Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been the Algerian president since 1999, yielded to protesters on March 11, announcing he will not seek a fifth term in office.
Many Algerians have criticized President Bouteflika for not stepping down sooner after the now 82-year-old man had a stroke in 2013. Recently, hundreds of thousands of Algerians took to the streets, sporting the country’s flag in protest of the president’s alleged plan to run for a fifth term. Protests have been staged almost every day since Feb. 22. While most of the protesters are young students, the demonstrations have attracted a wide variety of people, including journalists, lawyers and unions.
When announcing his plans to not seek reelection, the president said, “There will be no fifth term. There was never any question of it for me. Given my state of health and age, my last duty toward the new Algerian people was always contributing to the foundation of a new Republic.”
The official statement released also claimed a convention would be held to draft a new constitution to create a new government. No convention or election date has been released. Bouteflika has begun to place new, interim leaders in positions of power. Interior Minister Noureddine Bedoui was appointed as new prime minister on March 11 and tasked with forming a new Algerian government.
However, despite Bouteflika’s promise to not rerun, he canceled the election scheduled for April 18, according to The New York Times. Bouteflika’s cancelation of the election has been viewed by the opposition as a trick to save his government.
Protesters returned to the streets of the Algerian capital, Algiers, on March 12. The protesters argued the president is using the cancelation of the election as a means to extend his twenty-year reign. Hundreds flooded the streets with signs holding messages like “No extension, game over” and “System, give it up.”
“People were demanding an election without Bouteflika,” Saïd Saadi, a leader of the opposition against Bouteflika who has been arrested several times, told The New York Times. “Now he’s saying it’s going to be Bouteflika without an election.”
Saadi said there will be more protests after Friday Prayer on March 15.