Algeria protests against Bouteflika continue despite talks

Algerian president back home amid mass protests against him

Algerian president back home amid mass protests against him

Thousands of Algerians welcomed President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's announcement that he would not seek office for a fifth term by rushing to the streets on Monday evening to celebrate.

His bid to secure a fifth term in Algeria's April 18 election has sparked massive protests in the country, dominated by youths who have called for the president to stand aside.

But the longstanding leader, who has been rarely seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, failed to respond to the widespread demand for his immediate resignation.

In a series of announcements on Monday evening, the presidency said the election, previously set for April, would be postponed.

The country will, he said, hold a national conference until the end of 2019 to find a successor and plan for the future.

Brahimi was formerly a United Nations mediator on Syria, and his appointment could ease concerns of foreign allies anxious about Algeria's unrest.

In response, a popular Algerian satirical Twitter account tweeted, "We said no to a fifth term".

Celebratory honking of auto horns rang out in the city center, which was deserted by police after they had deployed in large numbers earlier in the day.

He said new polls would be held at an unspecified date to be decided by a "national conference" - effectively extending his mandate.

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.

France's foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, praised Bouteflika's declaration and said France was "hopeful that a new momentum to reward the highest aspirations of the Algerian people will quickly emerge". "The battle is not won". On March 3, the ailing 82-year old had made an offer to the nation - elect him again and he would undertake constitutional reforms and leave within a year.

"It's a very important moment because power in Algeria has never backed down", said Benjamin Stora, a leading historian of Algeria.

A declaration by judges yesterday that they would refuse to oversee the election seems to have been the final straw. Clerics said they would not accept government orders about what to preach. Last Friday hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets, marking the third week of demonstrations against his rule.

Algeria's powerful military is expected to play its traditional behind-the-scenes role during the transition and is now considering several civilians as candidates for the presidency and other top positions, political sources said.

- January 30, 2016: He tightens his grip on power by disbanding the DRS intelligence agency, considered by many a "state within a state".

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