Algeria’s president will finally step down this month after 20 years in power

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Image: REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
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Algeria’s ailing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika is finally set to step down from office after 20 years, following several weeks of unprecedented national protests.

Bouteflika, 82, will resign before the end of his tenure—his fourth term —on April 28, according to an official statement by Algeria’s state broadcaster. In a move believed to be tied to his impending resignation, Bouteflika announced a major cabinet reshuffle on Sunday (Mar. 31).

The notice comes after several weeks of mass protests against Bouteflika’s administration. The protests initially kicked off in February after the president announced his bid for a fifth term. Bouteflika has been president since April 1999. The official broadcaster’s statement does not indicate a date or plan for presidential election but it says Bouteflika will move to ensure the country’s institutions continue to function during the transition period.

Bouteflika initially dropped the controversial fifth-term bid two weeks ago after mass protests. But the move did not grant him any respite as demonstrators continued to ask for his resignation especially since it was unclear if he would ever leave office. The protests, believed to be the biggest in the country in nearly three decades, have marked a major shift in Algeria. Algerians largely abstained from the Arab Spring protests in 2011 that resulted in regime change in Egypt and Tunisia.

Amid the protests, Bouteflika’s ailing health (he has been confined to a wheelchair since suffering a stroke in 2013) has often been cited because many Algerians believe a cabal of unelected elites close to the president are running the country while he remains largely incapacitated. Protesters are also concerned by the country’s high unemployment rates and the government’s clampdown on dissent.

Crucially, Bouteflika also appears to have lost support within Algeria’s establishment: last week, the country’s army chief pushed for Bouteflika to be declared unfit for office.

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