THU 21 - 11 - 2019
Date: Apr 3, 2019
Source: The Daily Star

Folder: Elections
Algeria turns the page on Bouteflika
Bouteflika steps down at army official's urging
Agence France Presse
ALGIERS: Algeria’s ailing leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika submitted his resignation with immediate effect, state television said Tuesday, ceding power in the face of massive protests and after two decades at the helm.

Bouteflika “officially advised the Constitutional Council of the end of his term of office as president of the Republic” from Tuesday, a news ticker on the public broadcaster said.

Long accused of clinging to power, Bouteflika has come under mounting pressure to step down since his decision to seek a fifth term despite rarely being seen in public after suffering a stroke in 2013.

The 82-year-old said last month he would pull out of the bid for another term, and Monday his office said he would resign before his mandate expired at the end of the month.

The moves failed to satisfy the demonstrators who feared a ploy to extend Bouteflika’s rule, with hundreds of students taking to the streets earlier Tuesday.

The news of his resignation ends 20 years of rule, with the veteran of the independence struggle finally losing his grip after weeks of massive street protests and the loss of support from key loyalists.

Car horns sounded in the street as hundreds of people took to the streets to celebrate in Algiers.

Algeria’s constitution says once the president officially resigns, the speaker of the upper house of Parliament would act as interim leader for up to 90 days, during which a presidential election must be organized.

The resignation came hours after the military demanded impeachment proceedings be launched against Bouteflika immediately as it dismissed the announcement he would resign before his mandate expired.

Armed forces chief Ahmad Gaid Salah called for “the immediate application of the constitutional procedure for removing the head of state from power,” in a Defense Ministry statement after a meeting of top brass.

The statement said the army considered an announcement from the presidency Monday that Bouteflika would resign by the end of his term on April 28 as invalid because it did not come from the president himself.

“Any decision taken outside the constitutional framework is considered null and void,” the general said.

Without identifying anyone, Gaid Salah criticized “the stubbornness, the procrastination and the deviousness of certain individuals who are trying to make the crisis last and make it more complex with the only concern being their narrow personal interests.”

He said the army’s “sole ambition” was to “protect the people from a handful of [other] people who have unduly taken over the wealth of the Algerian people.”

A longtime Bouteflika ally, the general last week called on the president to resign or be declared unfit to rule, becoming one of the first of his faithful supporters to abandon him.

The presidency said in a statement Monday that Bouteflika would resign “before April 28, 2019,” after “important decisions” were taken, without specifying when these moves would occur.

The veteran leader would take “steps to ensure state institutions continue to function during the transition period,” it said in the brief statement that was carried by the official APS news agency.

That announcement was greeted by little sign of euphoria as people insisted that the whole ruling establishment had to go.

Bouteflika’s resignation would not “change anything,” psychology student Meriem Medjdoub said as she marched in central Algiers earlier Tuesday with around 1,000 protesters. “We are demanding a radical change,” she told AFP.

As rumors swirled of frantic behind-the-scenes maneuvering, prosecutors Monday announced they had banned corruption suspects from leaving Algeria after launching graft probes against unidentified individuals.

The authorities did not say who was being targeted by probes into corruption and illegal money transfers abroad, but they followed the arrest of the president’s key backer, businessman tycoon Ali Haddad.

Haddad, whom Forbes magazine describes as one of Algeria’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, was detained over the weekend at a border post with neighboring Tunisia.

Bouteflika had named a new government Sunday, made up mainly of technocrats under recently appointed premier Noureddine Bedoui. The administration, supposed to steer the country toward transition, included Gaid Salah remaining in his position as deputy defense minister.

Among the other key Bouteflika backers is his younger brother and special adviser Said, who was frequently cited in the past as a likely successor to the president.

Discreet and rarely seen in public, Said Bouteflika has exerted increasing influence behind the scenes as his brother’s health woes worsened, but the president’s resignation could take away much of his power.

Bouteflika steps down at army official's urging

Associated Press
ALGIERS: Algerian President Abdel-Aziz Bouteflika stepped down Tuesday after 20 years in office, and six weeks of massive nationwide protests aimed at pushing him and his much-criticized inner circle from power to create a real democracy in the gas-rich nation.

The announcement followed a sternly-worded call from the powerful army chief for Bouteflika, 82 and ailing, to "immediately" take up his proposal to bow out while respecting the constitution.

There was no immediate word on who would take over from Bouteflika. Under the constitution, the president of the upper house, the Council of Nations, steps in as interim leader for a maximum of 90 days so that elections can be organized.

The official APS news agency said in a full-page headline that Bouteflika had notified the Constitutional Council of his decision to end his mandate. It came a day after an announcement that he would leave by April 28, the official end of his fourth mandate - but after "important" changes were made, giving rise to fears that his entourage would do all to preserve the interests of those who profited from his time in office.

There was also no word about the presidential entourage, including younger brother Said Bouteflika, a top counselor blamed by protesters for widespread corruption in the North African country with a high unemployment rate and drastic gap between the rich and poor.

Army chief Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah had earlier in the day convened a meeting of the top military hierarchy, making clear the call for Bouteflika to desist had the backing of the military, among the most important on the African continent.

The Defense Ministry communique referred to Bouteflika's entourage as a "gang" and said it had made "fraud, embezzlement and duplicity its vocation."

Bouteflika has rarely been seen in public since a 2013 stroke.

His resignation caps six weeks of peaceful protest marches who wanted not just Bouteflika but the entire system to make an exit. It was preceded by a series of moves at the top, including a new government announced days ago and, above all, calls by Gaid Salah for Bouteflika to submit to Article 102 of the Constitution that would declare him unfit for office. Gaid Salah added two more articles called for by protesters, notably Artricle 7, which stipulates that "the people are the source of power."

The Defense Ministry statement Tuesday appeared to be a final warning.

Bouteflika came to the presidency after its darkest period, the 1990s Islamic insurgency. After taking power in 1999, Bouteflika managed to bring back stability to a country devastated by killings and distrust.

The insurgency then linked up with al-Qaida and metastasized into a Sahara-wide extremist movement.

As president, age and illness took its toll, and corruption scandals dogged him and associates.

Bouteflika also failed to create an economy that could offer enough jobs for Algeria's growing youth population despite the nation's vast oil and gas wealth.

In a country where secrecy surrounds the leadership, it has never been clear whether Bouteflika was fully in charge or whether the powerful army was pulling the strings.

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