Algerian president withdraws bid for re-election

Algerian president back home amid mass protests against him

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's decision to abandon his quest for a fifth term in power has opened a new chapter in the country's history.

According to the time frame outlined, a national conference supposed to "represent all the currents of the society" must fix a date for the next presidential election and to present, at the end of 2019, a new constitution which will be put to a popular referendum.

The conference should finish its work by the end of 2019, with elections to follow, he said in a statement.

Brahimi was formerly a United Nations mediator on Syria, and his appointment could ease concerns of foreign allies anxious about Algeria's unrest. He said this would calm tensions, allow the country to move forward along a path of "serene, calm and public security", and let Algerian institutions "prepare as quickly as possible for the advent of a new era in Algeria".

Bouteflika's announcement brought crowds back onto the streets in celebration on Monday evening.

Tens of thousands of Algerians of all social classes have protested over the past three weeks against Bouteflika's decision to stand in April's election.

Contacts are now underway with prominent war veterans who may take part in political changes including, Djamila Bouhired, Zohra Drif Bitat, Lakhdar Bouregaa, said political sources. "Given that his very presence within the vote was unconstitutional", she said, "the vote itself could never really be legal". "The battle is not won". Moreover, the president said that he would seek major changes to the country's government and that an inclusive and independent national conference would oversee reforms and the drafting of a new constitution.

Algerian president back home amid mass protests against him
Algerian president returns home after 'routine medical checks' in Geneva

Some of those celebrating on the streets struck a note of caution, saying they wanted a complete overhaul of the leadership which has offered few opportunities to young Algerians.

Top clerics had already criticised pressure on them to issue pro-government sermons.

Bouteflika's pledge, a day after he returned from Switzerland where he spent two weeks at a hospital for medical checks, failed to convince his key rival Ali Benflis. "There have also been demonstrations against Bouteflika in cities across France, home to the world's largest Algerian diaspora".

The protests trickled down to middle-schoolers and high-schoolers, with several hundred marching in the centre of Algiers, also calling for Bouteflika to withdraw his bid for a fifth mandate.

Algerians have hardly seen Bouteflika since he suffered a stroke in 2013, and anger has mounted at the country's secretive power structure.

There is widespread resentment at the perceived incompetence and corruption of the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), the party that has been in power for more than 50 years.

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