President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has announced his decision not to seek a fifth term as supreme magistrate in his message to the nation published in the official Algeria Press Service (APS).
He also announced the postponement of the presidential election of 18 April 2019.
“I particularly understand the message of young people in terms of both anxiety and ambition for their own future and that of the country,” said the Algerian president in his message.
Recall that on Sunday, a plane carrying Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, landed near Algiers, according to official media reports. The 82-year-old North African leader spent two weeks in a Geneva hospital. Since he had a stroke in 2013, he has rarely been seen in public.
The president’s plane flew to the Swiss city on Sunday before returning empty to the Boufarik military airport. The private channel Ennahar TV said the plane that had landed at Boufarik’s military airport from Geneva was returning President Bouteflika but the channel did not broadcast any images of the flight.
Instead, Ennahar TV broadcast a live virtual air map that showed the plane approaching the province of Blida, where the airport is located. The Algerian presidency subsequently confirmed the return of Bouteflika after two weeks of “periodic medical checks” in Switzerland, reported the national press APS.
The plane photographed Sunday at Cointrin airport, in Geneva, would be the same as the one that flew over on February 24th. Al Arabiya TV channel Hadath TV reported that security forces had been deployed between Algiers airport and the Zeralda presidential residence, just outside the capital Algiers.
Mr. Bouteflika’s office had previously insisted that he was simply going to Geneva for routine health examinations, but this suggested that his condition was much more serious.
The anger of the people
The announcement by Bouteflika of his candidacy next month has sparked huge protests throughout Algeria. These demonstrations, which saw the participation of tens of thousands of people, would represent the greatest threat to date for Mr. Bouteflika’s 20 years of rule. Teachers and their students went on strike at several universities, and thousands of people took part in Sunday’s protests. Algeria has more than 1.7 million students. More than a third of them live on campus, but many travel long distances from their homes to the amphitheaters.
Thousands of students poured into the streets of Algiers, waving the Algerian flag and chanting: “Bouteflika, there will be no fifth term.” Many shops in the city have been closed, and Reuters reports that rail services have been suspended.
The student protests follow Friday’s protests that saw the participation of tens of thousands of people – perhaps the biggest protests in the capital for 28 years. On Friday, riot police fired tear gas to prevent mostly peaceful groups from reaching a road leading to the presidential palace. Some 190 people were reportedly arrested by security forces according to local media.
Faced with the anger of the street, Bouteflika issued a statement in which he said he would retire sooner if he was re-elected, but that did not appease the protesters. Many young Algerians are frustrated by the lack of economic opportunities and what they perceive as the corruption of an elite who has ruled the country since independence.