Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign before end of term

The embattled leader will step down by April 28, state media reported

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said on Monday he will resign before the end of his term on April 28, bringing an end to two decades in office.

Mr Bouteflika will take "steps to ensure state institutions continue to function during the transition period", the presidency said through a statement.

Under Algeria's constitution, Abdelkader Bensalah, chairman of the upper house of Parliament, would take over as caretaker president for 90 days until elections are held.

Ennahar and El Bilad TV channels reported on Sunday that Mr Bouteflika, 82, could leave office within days, after mass protests and pressure from the army demanding that he end his rule.

The reports came after the army chief of staff, Lt Gen Ahmed Salah, renewed a call on Saturday for the Constitutional Council to declare the ailing president unfit to rule.

Seeking to defuse the demonstrations, Mr Bouteflika said on March 11 that he was dropping plans for a fifth term. But he stopped short of stepping down immediately, to wait for a national conference on political change.

That further enraged protesters, prompting Gen Salah to propose last week that the council determine whether the president was fit for office.

Mr Bouteflika, who has rarely been in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, might announce his resignation on Tuesday, Ennahar TV reported.

Authorities have arrested Ali Haddad, a leading Algerian businessman who was a close ally of Mr Bouteflika.

Mr Bouteflika was said to be preparing his resignation in accordance with the constitution's Article 102, which allows him to quit or face the verdict of the council.

Late on Sunday, hundreds took to the streets in the capital, Algiers, demanding his exit.

Hours before the announcement, Mr Bouteflika signalled that he might resign by naming a caretaker cabinet. A caretaker president cannot appoint cabinets.

Incumbent Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui will lead the 27 ministers.

Central Bank Governor Mohamed Loukal was appointed finance minister, while the former head of the state power and gas utility Mohamed Arkab will be the energy minister.

Sabri Boukadoum, a former envoy to the UN, becomes foreign minister in place of Ramtane Lamamra, who spent less than a month in the role.

The UAE Mission to the UN congratulated Mr Boukadoum on his new appointment, tweeting that he was a "great diplomat whose contributions to multilateralism are too many to count".

Gen Salah kept his position as deputy defence minister in the reshuffle and Mr Bouteflika kept his title as defence minister.

He named the communications minister Hassane Rabhi as government spokesman, a rarely filled post in a secretive administration.

Demonstrators have rejected military intervention in civilian matters and want to dismantle the entire ruling elite, which includes veterans from the war of independence against France, army officers, the ruling party and business tycoons.

Thousands have taken to the streets of Algiers for more than a month, complaining of corruption, nepotism and economic mismanagement they say has tarnished Mr Bouteflika's rule.

But two opposition leaders have supported the army initiative.

"The merit of this approach is that it responds to a pressing popular demand," said Ali Benflis, a former head of the ruling FLN party. "We are facing a political, constitutional and institutional crisis."

Abderazak Makri, head of an opposition party, said he was against anything that threatened the stability and unity of the country or undermined the military.

Updated: April 2, 2019 09:07 AM

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