President Abdelaziz Bouteflika issued a statement Sunday seeking to reassure an Algeria in turmoil that he hears the concerns of thousands of protesters, and will remain a candidate in upcoming elections but then institute reforms and shepherd a transition to new leadership.
“The commitments I make before you will, of course, lead us to a smooth intergenerational succession in reconciling Algeria,” said Bouteflika, in a letter delivered to Algerian media on his behalf. The 81-year-old president is still in Switzerland, where he has been receiving medical care for the past week.
“I invite you all at this moment to write a new chapter of our history and make the date of the 18th of April the birth certificate of a new Algerian Republic,” he added.
His letter detailed six promises meant to address the frustration of Algerians who have protested a Bouteflika fifth term for two weeks. They included his previous commitment to national dialogue and constitutional reform, while adding an emphasis on making youth inclusion a priority. He added that policies for “equitable redistribution of national wealth” will urgently be enacted, as well as measures to end bribery and corruption.
Protesters in Algiers, Oran, Sidi Bel Abbès and beyond say 20 years is long enough for the National Liberation Front candidate, who has been president of Algeria since 1999. He suffered a stroke in 2013 that left him wheelchair dependent and is rarely seen in public.
In future elections, Bouteflika said, “I promise that I will not be a candidate for them.”
Image: Bouteflika file