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Algeria's Bouteflika pulls out of presidential race

Algerians march with a national flag during a protest rally against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term in power, in the northeastern city of Annaba on March 3, 2019.
Algerians march with a national flag during a protest rally against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term in power, in the northeastern city of Annaba on March 3, 2019. AFP/Getty Images

Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has announced his withdrawal from would have been a fifth presidential race and postponed the election slated for 18 April, following weeks of protests against his candidacy.

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The announcement was greeted with celebratory hooting of car horns in the streets of Algiers.

Bouteflika, in a message carried by national news agency APS, said the presidential poll would follow a national conference on political and constitutional reform to be carried out by the end of 2019.

The veteran leader, who has been in power since 1999 but whose rare public appearances since a stroke in 2013 have been in a wheelchair, returned Sunday from hospital in Switzerland.

France welcomes decision

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Monday welcomed a decision by Algeria's Abdelaziz Bouteflika to reconsider his decision to seek a fifth presidential term, following weeks of protests.

"France expresses its hope that a new dynamic that can answer the deep aspirations of the Algerian people will rapidly take hold," said Le Drian in a statement.

Algeria's interior minister Noureddine Bedoui was named prime minister on Monday, APS reported, in a political shake-up as President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his withdrawal from elections.

Bedoui replaces Ahmed Ouyahia as premier and has been tasked with forming a new government, according to APS.

Weeks of demonstrations

Demonstrations against Bouteflika's bid for another term in office have brought tens of thousands of protesters onto Algeria's streets. Algerians in the diaspora also took to the streets of Montreal, Paris and Rabat in recent weeks.

Bouteflika vowed in his message "to hand over the duties and prerogatives of the president of the republic to the successor freely chosen by the Algerian people".

"There will not be a fifth term," the 82-year-old said, while implying that he would remain in office until his term expires on 28 April.

"There will be no presidential election on 18 April," the scheduled date of polling, Bouteflika said, adding that he was responding to "a pressing demand that you have been numerous in making to me".

(with AFP)

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