Algerian president quits but protests continue

Streets: Algerian students demonstrate a day after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced he will resign. Photo: Getty Images
Algerian demonstrators have vowed to continue protests against the government, saying the resignation of the president is not enough and they want the regime to fall.

Crowds celebrated in the streets of Algiers yesterday at the news that Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the ailing 82-year-old president, had resigned after 20 years in office, handing power to a caretaker government. Protesters said the fall of Mr Bouteflika would not satisfy their demands for complete democratic reform in the north African country.

“I’m not happy because we still have the same political system. I’m going to keep going out until there’s a second republic,” said Saadia, a 30-year-old French-Algerian who joined a crowd near the University of Algiers.

The demonstrations began six weeks ago when it was announced Mr Bouteflika planned to stand for a fifth term as president. Algerian authorities were taken aback at the scale of dissent and on March 11 the government said that Mr Bouteflika, rarely seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, had withdrawn his candidacy.

But the marches continued and last week Lt Gen Ahmed Gaed Salah, head of the national army, called for Mr Bouteflika to step aside, making the president’s position untenable. He resigned on Tuesday night “out of respect for the hearts and minds of my compatriots and to enable them to plan together for a better future for Algeria”, a statement read.

The resignation was hailed in rebel-held areas of Syria and by protesters in Sudan as a sign that the aims of the Arab Spring were not yet completely crushed.