Published: Thu, March 14, 2019
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Bouteflika Withdraws From Re-Election, Algerians Celebrate in Streets

Bouteflika Withdraws From Re-Election, Algerians Celebrate in Streets

Monday marked the biggest jolt, when 82-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika renounced a fifth presidential term, reshuffled his government, proclaimed the drafting of a new constitution and rescheduled presidential elections initially set for April to an unspecified date.

The ailing leader, who has been confined to a wheelchair since suffering a stroke in 2013, said a government reshuffle would also take place soon.

The president announced on Monday that a "national conference" would set a new date for polls that he would not contest.

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 support efforts in Algeria to chart a new path forward based on dialogue that reflects the will of all Algerians and their aspirations for a peaceful and prosperous future", State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told a briefing.

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

And though Bouteflika cancelled elections scheduled for 18 April, he gave no indication of whether he would step down when his mandate expires next month.

Political sources said the military would nearly certainly play a leading role in the transition process, and was assessing three or four civilians who could be eligible to become leaders. "The battle is not won".

The president is expected to name prominent global peacemaker Lakhdar Brahimi to head a new "national conference" aimed at setting an election date and drafting a new constitution.

Thousands of Algerians shared the same concerns that the decision is just a way to allow Bouteflika to stay in power for an indefinite period.

The United States said it backed the talks going on in Algeria and that it was "closely monitoring" reports elections had been postponed.

Bouteflika's pledge, a day after he returned from Switzerland where he spent two weeks at a hospital for medical checks, failed to convince his key rival Ali Benflis.

This is all too distant and too vague for many Algerians, especially the young, who are seeking real change to an ossified political system dominated by opaque cliques of officials, businessmen and politicians amid soaring unemployment, widespread corruption and a chronic shortage of accommodation. Clerics said they would not accept government orders about what to preach.

Bouteflika oversaw the end of the conflict but under his rule power was concentrated in the hands of a secretive military-based establishment known to Algerians as "le pouvoir" - the powers-that-be. Broad, nationwide protests are expected Friday.

The greed for power is intoxicating and reflects among most African Leaders.

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