Algeria’s President Bouteflika says he will not stand for fifth term and postpones election

Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika withdrew from a bid to win another term in office and postponed an April 18 election. (AP file photo)
Updated 12 March 2019
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Algeria’s President Bouteflika says he will not stand for fifth term and postpones election

  • Algerians take to the streets in celebration
  • Former colonial power France on Monday welcomed the president’s decision

ALGIERS: Algeria’s ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced Monday he is dropping his bid for a fifth term in office, scrapping the upcoming elections altogether after weeks of protests against his candidacy.
“Peacefully, we have overthrown the puppet!” people sang in Algiers following the president’s decision.
Celebratory honking of car horns rang out in the city center, as Algerians waved their national flags on streets deserted by police.
“There will not be a fifth term” and “there will be no presidential election on April 18,” Bouteflika announced in a message carried by the official APS news agency.
The veteran leader said he was responding to “a pressing demand that you have been numerous in making to me.”
Demonstrations against Bouteflika’s bid for another term have brought tens of thousands of protesters onto the streets for each of the last three Fridays, with smaller demonstrations taking place on other days.
The president vowed “to hand over the duties and prerogatives of the president of the republic to the successor freely chosen by the Algerian people,” but gave no date for new elections.
In a broader political shake-up, interior minister Noureddine Bedoui replaced the unpopular Ahmed Ouyahia as prime minister and has been tasked with forming a new government, according to APS.
Bouteflika, whose rare public appearances since he suffered a stroke in 2013 have been in a wheelchair, returned to Algeria on Sunday after spending two weeks at a hospital in Switzerland.
Former colonial power France on Monday welcomed the president’s decision to not stand for a fifth term.
“France expresses its hope that a new dynamic that can answer the deep aspirations of the Algerian people will rapidly take hold,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
Although credited with helping foster peace after Algeria’s decade-long civil war, Bouteflika has faced criticism for alleged authoritarianism.
Fatiha Benabou, a constitutional rights expert at the University of Algiers, said there was “no legal basis to postpone the elections.”
“In the case of a political crisis, the Algerian constitution is partially ineffective,” she said.
Journalists, lawyers and students had taken part in protests against Bouteflika’s re-election bid, and on Monday barristers across the country joined the strike action.
They demanded the Constitutional Council reject the 82-year-old’s candidacy on grounds of his “incapacity” to carry out the role.
Bouteflika’s return from hospital in Geneva came as protest strikes Sunday shut down the capital’s public transport system and many schools across Algeria.
The president had left Algeria on February 24 for what the presidency described as “routine medical checks.”

Since the breakout of protests last month, Algeria’s army chief, Ahmed Gaid Salah, has pledged to guarantee national security and criticized those he said want to return to the “painful years” of the civil war of the 1990s.
Bouteflika became president in 1999, and he has clung on to power despite his ill health.
When the Arab Spring uprisings erupted across the Middle East and North Africa, Bouteflika’s regime smothered dissent and played on fears of a repeat of Algeria’s civil war.
His government lifted a 19-year state of emergency, granted pay rises and announced piecemeal political reforms.
But those reforms, announced in “a climate of fear,” were shelved once the situation was brought under control, a European diplomat said.
Little by little, Bouteflika returned the regime to its authoritarian ways.
He was elected for a fourth term in April 2014 with 81.5 percent of the vote, despite not campaigning.
Bouteflika has a history of medical problems and has often flown to France or Switzerland for treatment.


Yemen president accuses UN envoy Griffiths of siding with Houthis

Updated 5 min 6 sec ago
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Yemen president accuses UN envoy Griffiths of siding with Houthis

  • Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi sent a letter to the UN chief saying he would no longer work with Griffiths
  • Letter accuses Griffiths of treating the militia as a 'de-facto government'

SANAA: Yemen’s internationally recognized president sent a letter to the UN chief, criticizing his envoy to the country over allegedly siding with Iran-aligned Houthi militia, the president’s office said Friday.
In the letter addressed to Antonio Guterres, Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi accused Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy to Yemen, of undermining chances for peace. Hadi also warns his government would stop dealing with the UN envoy.
“I can no longer tolerate the violations committed by the special envoy, which threaten prospects for a solution,” read the five-page letter, a copy of which was released to reporters Thursday.
It also accuses Griffiths of treating the militia as a "de-facto government and as an equal to the legitimate and elected government” of Yemen.
The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by the Houthi rebels. A coalition of Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, allied with Hadi’s government, has been fighting the Houthis since March 2015.
The fighting has killed an estimated 60,000 people and left millions suffering from lack of food and medical care.
Tensions arose between Griffiths and Hadi last week after the UN announced the long-delayed Houthi withdrawal from the flashpoint port city of Hodeidah.
Hadi’s government accused Griffiths at the time of turning a blind eye that the militants had allegedly only handed control of the port to “militia leaders” loyal to them. The “redeployment of Houthis” from Hodeidah was part of a UN-brokered deal concluded in December.
Hadi went on to say that Griffiths’s “poor understanding” of the Yemeni conflict makes him unfit for his post.
While briefing the UN Security Council on the situation in Yemen last week, Griffiths urged the warring sides to maintain the momentum of the Houthi withdrawal from Hodeidah — the country’s lifeline to foreign aid — and to work urgently on a political solution to the devastating conflict.
There were “signs of hope” but “also alarming signs” that could threaten progress, Griffiths said, a reference to continuing clashes in the southern Dhale province.
Later Friday, Houthi leader Mohamed Ali Al-Houthi tweeted that Hadi’s letter to the UN chief was “a miserable attempt to curtail peace.”