Algeria prepares post-Bouteflika era

Abdelaziz Bouteflika answers journalist's questions as he leaves the Elysee Palace after a meeting with French President Georges Pompidou. Photo : AFP

NEWSROOM (ADV) – Algeria’s Constitutional Council on Wednesday confirmed the resignation of Abdelaziz Bouteflika from the presidency, one day after official news agency APS said he decided to leave the post following massive protests against his long-term leadership.

According to APS, the 12-member Council later in the day will notify the parliament of the vacancy of presidency in accordance to Article 102 of the Constitution.

Under Algeria’s constitution, Abdelkader Bensalah, speaker of the Council of the Nation and upper house of the parliament, is due to take over as the interim leader for a transition period of up to 90 days, during which presidential elections must be organized.

In a public farewell letter also released by APS shortly after the council’s confirmation, the 82-year-old Bouteflika said that he was proud of having led the nation for 20 years.

“I am leaving the politics without sadness or fear for the country’s future,” the letter said.

Amid weeks-long nationwide demonstrations demanding his resignation, Bouteflika announced a new caretaker government headed by Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, state TV said Sunday night.

The cabinet list showed that 21 of the country’s 27 ministers have been changed. Sabri Boukadoum, a former envoy to the United Nations, replaced Ramtane Lamamra as foreign minister. Central bank Governor Mohamed Loukal was named as finance minister.

Algeria’s army chief Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah, who called for Bouteflika to be declared unfit for office on March 26, kept his post as vice defense minister.

Bouteflika had been in power since 1999. He has rarely been seen in public since he suffered a stroke in 2013. His term had been due to end on April 28.

Anti-Bouteflika protesters staged protests across the North African country in late February after Bouteflika said he would seek a fifth consecutive term in the April elections.

In a response to protests, the former president on March 11 said he would not seek candidacy for the election and the vote would be postponed for an indefinite period.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement on Wednesday that he “takes note” of the Bouteflika’s resignation and “salutes the mature and calm nature in which the Algerian people have been expressing their desire for change.”

The UN chief “looks forward to a peaceful and democratic transition process that reflects the wishes of the Algerian people,” his spokesman said, adding that Guterres “reiterates the United Nations’ continued commitment to supporting Algeria in its process of democratic transition.”

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