Algerian president reportedly home amid mass protests

Arturo Kim
March 14, 2019

Army Chief of Staff Ahmed Gaid Salah initially threatened the protesters, but made what was seen as a significant turnaround Sunday, saying "the people and the army share friendship, solidarity and a future vision for Algeria".

Algerians took to the streets of Algeria, chanting "this is a republic, not a kingdom" and "20 years is more than enough".

The announcement was greeted with celebratory hooting of vehicle horns in the streets of Algiers.

"It is great news! On the other, a population that has chose to take charge of its destiny". "The people need to unite to choose what's next".

Algeria's deputy prime minister said Bouteflika's decision was the most important turning point since independence from France, Annahar TV reported.

Bouteflika arrived back in Algeria late on Sunday night after two weeks of medical treatment in Geneva, returning to a country beset by protests and a general strike.

Demonstrations against his re-election bid had brought tens of thousands onto the streets for the past three Fridays, with smaller demonstrations taking place on other days.

Protests have been building across the North African country since February when Mr Bouteflika's office first announced his intention to seek a fifth term.

"We have won the battle". "Bouteflika asked for another year and he got his way".

The protests have shattered years of political inertia and unsettled Algeria's opaque but powerful security establishment. However, he still intends to hang on at least until a successor is chosen, in an election that so far has not been scheduled.

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The television reporter said that the majority of Algerians reject Bouteflika's decision to postpone the election.

The United States said it supports the right of Algerians to "free and fair elections".

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. A new constitution would be submitted to the public for a referendum.

On Monday, Algerian teenagers and lawyers held protests, and workers held scattered walkouts, as the tense nation waited to see what concessions Bouteflika would give, if any.

"Algerians are skeptical, they're waiting to digest this information", France 24 journalist Meriem Amellal said, as questions about the status quo lingered Tuesday.

Farrah did not trust the outgoing president's promises. "The conference should strive to complete its mandate by the end of 2019", added Bouteflika. It pushes Bouteflika to announce political reforms in April but the opposition says the measures are insufficient.

"There will not be a fifth term", Bouteflika said in a message carried by the official APS news agency, while suggesting that he would remain in office until his term expires on April 28.

Social media posts implored citizens to enact civil disobedience and refuse to attend their jobs for the rest of the working week. "This is a small victory of the Algerian people over the regime".

Ghania Bellal, a journalism student, said Bouteflika "is mocking us".

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