President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria postponed the nation’s April 18 election on Monday, and said in a statement that he would no longer run for re-election after serving four terms.
State news agency Algeria Press Service shared Bouteflika’s message with the nation, following the 82-year-old leader’s return from medical treatment in Switzerland. Bouteflika came home Sunday after two weeks at the University Hospitals of Geneva, where the same angry protests that swelled the streets of Algiers and Oran were right outside his door.
Bouteflika cited his age and health in his decision to step down, but did not provide information about any new medical developments. The National Liberation Front leader suffered a stroke in 2013 and is rarely seen in public, and his infirmity was a rallying point for Algerians who argued Bouteflika – the nation’s only president for the last two decades – has been in power long enough.
Thousands of Algerians protested a Bouteflika fifth term in recent weeks. Friday’s protests were the largest to date, and the escalating Algerian anger, especially among its university students and youth, was met with tear gas and dozens of arrests. The National Museum of Antiquities and Islamic Arts was vandalized during protests near Bouteflika’s official residence, with authorities reporting the theft of art and antiquities.
On Monday, about 1,000 judges launched a 48-hour strike and said they refused to oversee the electoral process if Bouteflika remained a candidate, according to Al Jazeera.
Bouteflika, who is now expected to reorganize his government, had promised that if elected he would serve only a partial term while shepherding an orderly leadership transition. He also promised to deliver on national dialogue and constitutional reform, youth inclusion, and the “equitable redistribution of national wealth,” as well as measures to end bribery and corruption.
Image: Algerian presidency file