1 April 2019
Facing nationwide protests, President Bouteflika agreed not to run for fifth term, postponed elections indefinitely and promised reform; army and ruling party called on constitutional council to declare him unfit to rule and initiate transition, but some protesters rejected plan, demanding end of regime, heightening uncertainty and political volatility in coming weeks. While Bouteflika in hospital in Geneva, his campaign manager 3 March submitted Bouteflika’s candidacy for 18 April elections ahead of his term’s end 28 April. Bouteflika same day promised early elections if he won and reforms including constitutional referendum; protesters rejected promises. Following mass protests 8 March, Bouteflika 10 March returned to Algeria, 11 March postponed sine die presidential elections, withdrawing his candidacy, and said national conference would decide new date for elections. Same day, he replaced PM Ouyahia with Interior Minister Bedoui, and tasked him with appointing new govt. Several Bouteflika allies stepped down: Ali Haddad 28 March resigned as president of Business Leaders’ Forum (FCE), authorities 31 March arrested him after he tried to cross Tunisian border; former Agriculture Minister Sid Ahmed Ferroukhi resigned as MP for ruling party National Liberation Front (FLN) 4 March. Interim FLN leader Moab Bouchareb 20 March backed Bouteflika’s transition roadmap. Over ten million people took part in weekly protests after Friday prayers 15, 22 and 29 March, but opposition struggled to form united front. Loose opposition coalition National Coordination for Change (CNC) 18 March called for dissolution of parliament and urged Bouteflika to hand over power to temporary collective presidency when his term ends. Army Chief of Staff Gaïd Salah 26 March called on constitutional council to rule Bouteflika unfit for office; parliament would have to ratify council’s decision with two-thirds majority. Ruling FLN said it backed army’s initiative. Protesters called not just for Bouteflika’s resignation but also end of regime.