Algerian president back home amid mass protests against him

Leroy Wright
March 12, 2019

Rarely seen in public since suffering a stroke six years ago, Bouteflika, who was elected president in 1999, said on Monday that a government reshuffle would also take place soon.

Bouteflika managed to remain in power as the 2011 "Arab Spring" uprising toppled autocrats in neighboring countries mainly because Algeria had enough foreign reserves to boost state spending.

There are no further details on when the new election date might be.

"Peacefully, we have overthrown the puppet!" people sang in the streets of the capital, Algiers, following the announcement.

Algeria's Ahmed Ouyahia has resigned as Prime Minister, leaving room for a new interim government to govern the country in the last days of the current regime.

The presidency also announced via the official APS news agency that the country's national election, originally scheduled for April 18, would be postponed pending a national conference on political and constitutional reform.

Demonstrations against his bid for another term in office have brought tens of thousands of protesters onto Algeria's streets.

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"He says he won't be candidate but on the other hand he is prolonging his mandate without invoking any sound legal basis for it".

"The voice of the people has been heard", Brahimi, a former foreign minister and United Nations special envoy, said on state television after meeting Bouteflika.

More than 1,000 judges said on Monday they would refuse to oversee the election if Bouteflika stood. Justice Minister Tayeb Louh responded to the movement by calling for neutrality.

Bouteflika met Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gaed Salah and veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, the kind of widely respected figure the military might look to as a guarantor of stability. This was considered a sign that the military did not stand with the government.

On Friday, a lawyer acting on behalf of an unnamed Algerian citizen filed a petition with a Swiss court requesting that Bouteflika be placed under a trusteeship for his own protection, alleging that his "fragile health" left him vulnerable to "exploitation" by those around him. Similar marches were held across the country.

"But bottom line, the demands were about the whole system of governance that Bouteflika personifies", she said.

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