Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has announced he will not seek a fifth term in office after weeks of mass protests across Algeria against his candidacy.
The presidency also announced the postponement of the 18 April presidential elections. A government reshuffle would take place soon, the presidency said in a statement, Reuters reported on Monday.
Bouteflika also said in the announcement that his last duty would be to contribute to the founding of a new system that will be in “the hands of a new generation of Algerians”.
Bouteflika’s announcement provoked scenes of celebration in Algeria, with hundreds of people, young and old, jumping up and down with excitement. Cars beeped their horns in approval.
Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia resigned shortly after Bouteflika’s announcement and was replaced by Nourredine Bedoui, a member of Bouteflika’s inner circle who has served as interior minister since 2015.
Ramtane Lamamra, former minister of foreign affairs and Bouteflika’s close ally, was named deputy prime minister, a position created on Monday by presidential decree.
Tens of thousands of people from different social classes across Algeria have been demonstrating almost daily, calling on the president to step down and not to submit his official application at the Constitutional Council, over the past few weeks. The protest also spread to France, Canada and other Western countries that are home to an Algerian diaspora.
The demonstrations have been the biggest in Algeria since an election was annulled by the military in 1991, triggering a decade of civil war against Islamists in which 200,000 people were killed.
Ruling since 1999, Bouteflika (82), has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013. He stamped out a decade-long Islamist insurgency during his early times. Algerians remained silent to his political system for the sake of peace and stability, while opposition parties suffered from hurdles in mounting an electoral challenge.
His opponents suspected that he was being kept in place to protect the grip of the military, saying that they do not believe he is in a fit state to run the country that is rich in oil and gas resources.