Algerians want more than Bouteflika’s withdrawal from the presidential race

The celebrations that were heard on the streets of Algeria after weeks of protests pushed 82-year-old president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to withdraw his fifth term re-election bid are quickly over and have turned to another round of protests, with many calling for Bouteflika’s resignation.

Although Bouteflika has withdrawn from the presidential race, saying, “There will be no fifth term”. The President who is unable to stand, walk, talk and effectively carry out his duties as Algeria’s head of state stated that “Given my state of health and age, my last duty towards the Algerian people was always contributing to the foundation of a new Republic”. But Algerians do not want him to contribute to the new republic and they are seeking his immediate resignation. Given that he has been in power since 1999, they do not expect Bouteflika to remain in office until a new constitution is adopted as he proposed.

The presidential election earlier scheduled to hold on April 18 was postponed indefinitely while a new prime minister, Noureddine Bedoui, was appointed to form a new government after his predecessor Ahmed Ouyahia resigned in the wake of mass protests. However, all efforts by Bedoui have proven abortive as 13 independent Algerian unions have refused to back the newly-appointed prime minister’s efforts, as many see it as an attempt to prolong Bouteflika’s rule.

Noureddine Bedoui promised to create an inclusive government of technocrats, saying that the new cabinet would include experts with no political affiliation and will “reflect the demographics of the Algerian society,” the state news agency (APS) reports.

Meanwhile, one of the leaders of the education sector unions, Boualem Amora has said that further talks will not be held with the current leadership. “We will not hold discussions with this system, we belong to the people and the people said ‘No’ to the system.”

On Friday, tens of thousands of Algerians took to the streets, demanding a radical change to the ruling system in the largest demonstration yet. By Sunday, some workers at Algeria’s biggest natural gas field staged a protest against extending the president’s fourth term in the name of “adoption of a new constitution.”

Demonstrators carry flags as they protest. Photo: Reuters

Pressure mounted on Bouteflika to withdraw when 1,000 lawyers gathered in Algiers in protest; more than 16,000 rallied in Paris and France. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was the move by more than 1,000 Judges, who said they would refuse to oversee the planned election if he runs.

The Northern African country has experienced strikes and protests in recent years. Demonstrations are not new in Algeria, but the current rallies are the biggest since 2011. Since their unity and persistence has paid off so far, it is expected that it will also lead to Bouteflika’s resignation.