Algeria's leader, ceding to protests, will quit by April 28

  • FILE - In this April 28, 2014 file photo, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika sits in a wheelchair after taking oath as President, in Algiers. Algeria's powerful army chief said Tuesday March 26, 2019 that he wants to trigger the constitutional process that would declare President Abdelaziz Bouteflika unfit for office, after more than a month of mass protests against the ailing leader's long rule.

    FILE - In this April 28, 2014 file photo, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika sits in a wheelchair after taking oath as President, in Algiers. Algeria's powerful army chief said Tuesday March 26, 2019 that he wants to trigger the constitutional process that would declare President Abdelaziz Bouteflika unfit for office, after more than a month of mass protests against the ailing leader's long rule. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this March 11, 2019 file photo, Algerian Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui speaks in Algiers. Algerian national television announced Sunday March 31, 2019 night that Bouteflika and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui named a new government after weeks of mass protests and political tensions in this gas-rich North African country.

    FILE - In this March 11, 2019 file photo, Algerian Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui speaks in Algiers. Algerian national television announced Sunday March 31, 2019 night that Bouteflika and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui named a new government after weeks of mass protests and political tensions in this gas-rich North African country. Associated Press

  • Teargas is used to disperse demonstrators during clashes with police in Algiers, Algeria, March 29, 2019. Algerians taking to the streets for their sixth straight Friday of protests aren't just angry at their ailing president, they want to bring down the entire political system that has sustained him.

    Teargas is used to disperse demonstrators during clashes with police in Algiers, Algeria, March 29, 2019. Algerians taking to the streets for their sixth straight Friday of protests aren't just angry at their ailing president, they want to bring down the entire political system that has sustained him. Associated Press

  • In this picture taken on June 27, 2012, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, left, and his Army chief of staff, Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah, review an honor guard before attending a military parade, in Cherchell near Algiers, Algeria. Algeria's powerful army chief, Ahmed Gaid Salah, insisted Wednesday that the military won't get mixed up in politics, a day after he said a constitutional process should be set in motion to declare ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika unfit for office.

    In this picture taken on June 27, 2012, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, left, and his Army chief of staff, Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah, review an honor guard before attending a military parade, in Cherchell near Algiers, Algeria. Algeria's powerful army chief, Ahmed Gaid Salah, insisted Wednesday that the military won't get mixed up in politics, a day after he said a constitutional process should be set in motion to declare ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika unfit for office. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this April 28, 2014 file photo, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika appaluds while sitting on a wheelchair after taking oath as President, in Algiers. Embattled Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika says he will step down before his fourth term ends on April 28. In a short statement issued on Monday April 1, 2019, the president's office said Bouteflika would take "important steps to ensure the continuity of the functioning of state institutions" during a transition period following his departure from the post he's held since 1999.

    FILE - In this April 28, 2014 file photo, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika appaluds while sitting on a wheelchair after taking oath as President, in Algiers. Embattled Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika says he will step down before his fourth term ends on April 28. In a short statement issued on Monday April 1, 2019, the president's office said Bouteflika would take "important steps to ensure the continuity of the functioning of state institutions" during a transition period following his departure from the post he's held since 1999. Associated Press

  • A police officers walks with a teargas rifle during clashes in Algiers, Algeria, March 29, 2019. Algerians taking to the streets for their sixth straight Friday of protests aren't just angry at their ailing president, they want to bring down the entire political system that has sustained him.

    A police officers walks with a teargas rifle during clashes in Algiers, Algeria, March 29, 2019. Algerians taking to the streets for their sixth straight Friday of protests aren't just angry at their ailing president, they want to bring down the entire political system that has sustained him. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Oct. 1, 1975 file photo Abdelaziz Bouteflika, left, meets with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the U.S. State Department suite at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel Towers. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's office announced Monday that he will step down by the end of his current term April 28, ceding to weeks of mass protests against his rule. It was a stunning concession for the 82-year-old leader, who has been diminished by a stroke but has been known as a wily political survivor ever since he fought for independence from France six decades ago.

    FILE - In this Oct. 1, 1975 file photo Abdelaziz Bouteflika, left, meets with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the U.S. State Department suite at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel Towers. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's office announced Monday that he will step down by the end of his current term April 28, ceding to weeks of mass protests against his rule. It was a stunning concession for the 82-year-old leader, who has been diminished by a stroke but has been known as a wily political survivor ever since he fought for independence from France six decades ago. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this March 27, 2009 file photo Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika salutes the crowd while dressed in a traditional "Burnous" robe from the Kabyle ethnic minority in Tizi Ouzou, Algeria. Embattled Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika says he will step down before his fourth term ends on April 28. In a short statement issued on Monday April 1, 2019, the president's office said Bouteflika would take "important steps to ensure the continuity of the functioning of state institutions" during a transition period following his departure from the post he's held since 1999. ( AP Photo/Alfred de Montesquieu, file)

    FILE - In this March 27, 2009 file photo Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika salutes the crowd while dressed in a traditional "Burnous" robe from the Kabyle ethnic minority in Tizi Ouzou, Algeria. Embattled Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika says he will step down before his fourth term ends on April 28. In a short statement issued on Monday April 1, 2019, the president's office said Bouteflika would take "important steps to ensure the continuity of the functioning of state institutions" during a transition period following his departure from the post he's held since 1999. ( AP Photo/Alfred de Montesquieu, file) Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Feb.12 2009 file photo, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika waves during a rally in Algiers. Embattled Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika says he will step down before his fourth term ends on April 28. In a short statement issued on Monday April 1, 2019, the president's office said Bouteflika would take "important steps to ensure the continuity of the functioning of state institutions" during a transition period following his departure from the post he's held since 1999.

    FILE - In this Feb.12 2009 file photo, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika waves during a rally in Algiers. Embattled Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika says he will step down before his fourth term ends on April 28. In a short statement issued on Monday April 1, 2019, the president's office said Bouteflika would take "important steps to ensure the continuity of the functioning of state institutions" during a transition period following his departure from the post he's held since 1999. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this June 9, 2004 file photo, President Bush welcomes Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika at the G-8 Summit on Sea Island, Ga. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s office announced Monday that he will step down by the end of his current term April 28, ceding to weeks of mass protests against his rule. It was a stunning concession for the 82-year-old leader, who has been diminished by a stroke but has been known as a wily political survivor ever since he fought for independence from France six decades ago.

    FILE - In this June 9, 2004 file photo, President Bush welcomes Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika at the G-8 Summit on Sea Island, Ga. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s office announced Monday that he will step down by the end of his current term April 28, ceding to weeks of mass protests against his rule. It was a stunning concession for the 82-year-old leader, who has been diminished by a stroke but has been known as a wily political survivor ever since he fought for independence from France six decades ago. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this July 1, 2009 file photo, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, left receives Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika ahead of the opening session of the 13th African Union summit of heads of state and government in Sirte, Libya. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s office announced Monday that he will step down by the end of his current term April 28, ceding to weeks of mass protests against his rule. It was a stunning concession for the 82-year-old leader, who has been diminished by a stroke but has been known as a wily political survivor ever since he fought for independence from France six decades ago.

    FILE - In this July 1, 2009 file photo, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, left receives Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika ahead of the opening session of the 13th African Union summit of heads of state and government in Sirte, Libya. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s office announced Monday that he will step down by the end of his current term April 28, ceding to weeks of mass protests against his rule. It was a stunning concession for the 82-year-old leader, who has been diminished by a stroke but has been known as a wily political survivor ever since he fought for independence from France six decades ago. Associated Press

  • FILE -  In this March 10, 2006 file photo, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, behind, and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are pictured at the Algiers airport. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s office announced Monday that he will step down by the end of his current term April 28, ceding to weeks of mass protests against his rule. It was a stunning concession for the 82-year-old leader, who has been diminished by a stroke but has been known as a wily political survivor ever since he fought for independence from France six decades ago.

    FILE - In this March 10, 2006 file photo, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, behind, and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are pictured at the Algiers airport. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s office announced Monday that he will step down by the end of his current term April 28, ceding to weeks of mass protests against his rule. It was a stunning concession for the 82-year-old leader, who has been diminished by a stroke but has been known as a wily political survivor ever since he fought for independence from France six decades ago. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Aug.6, 2007 file photo, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, right, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad listen to national anthems at Algiers airport. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s office announced Monday that he will step down by the end of his current term April 28, ceding to weeks of mass protests against his rule. It was a stunning concession for the 82-year-old leader, who has been diminished by a stroke but has been known as a wily political survivor ever since he fought for independence from France six decades ago.

    FILE - In this Aug.6, 2007 file photo, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, right, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad listen to national anthems at Algiers airport. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s office announced Monday that he will step down by the end of his current term April 28, ceding to weeks of mass protests against his rule. It was a stunning concession for the 82-year-old leader, who has been diminished by a stroke but has been known as a wily political survivor ever since he fought for independence from France six decades ago. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 4/1/2019 2:57 PM

ALGIERS, Algeria -- Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika will step down before his fourth term ends on April 28, his office said Monday, as the ailing leader capitulated to growing calls for his resignation after two decades in power.

It's unclear if the stunning move will appease the masses of protesters whose vociferous calls for Bouteflika and his cadre of loyalists to quit have expanded to demand an overhaul of the entire political system.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Their weekly since Feb. 22 have challenged the political status quo in the country long ruled by Bouteflika, 82, a onetime wily political survivor who has rarely been seen in public since he suffered a stroke in 2013.

A short statement from Bouteflika's office said he would take "important steps to ensure the continuity of the functioning of state institutions" after he leaves the office he assumed in 1999.

The Algerian Constitution calls for the head of the upper house of parliament, Abdelkader Bensalah, to act as interim leader for a maximum of 90 days while an election is organized.

Algerian national television reported Sunday night that Bouteflika and the replacement prime minister he appointed last month, Noureddine Bedoui, had formed a new government after struggling for weeks to find potential Cabinet ministers amid the uncertainty surrounding the president.

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The new government must stay in place during the transition period before the next election.

In recent weeks, the president saw key figures withdraw their support from him. Algeria's powerful army chief proposed launching a procedure to have Bouteflika declared unfit for office, prompting tensions between the army and the president's inner circle.

The president's concession came after a court in Algeria said it was investigating corruption and the illegal transfer of funds abroad amid concerns about a flight of capital from the country amid political instability.

The official APS news agency quoted the Algerian prosecutor's office Monday as saying "certain people" were banned from leaving the country "for the needs of the investigation," providing no details.

Police detained a powerful industrialist who is thought to be close to Bouteflika, Ali Haddad, near the Algerian-Tunisian border over the weekend.

Algeria is Africa's biggest country by land mass and a major natural gas producer, but its energy riches have not trickled down to reach the pockets of its people.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The protests have been driven mostly by young Algerians, many of whom struggle to find jobs. Desperation has driven some to attempt to migrate to Europe on rickety boats.

Demonstrators said Bouteflika and the rest of the political establishment were out of touch with their everyday problems. They have called for a rewritten constitution that gives fewer powers to the president in a bid to strengthen democracy in the gas-rich North African country.

Ending his presidency amid the protests was a bold decision for Bouteflika, who in February declared he would seek a fifth term in the presidential election originally scheduled for April 18.

He postponed the election and said he would not be a candidate when it was held, but did not set a new date, angering critics who saw the delay as designed to hold onto power.

Bouteflika had been known as a political survivor ever since he fought during the 1950s and 1960s for Algeria's independence from France.

He became foreign minister at the age of 25, and stood up to the likes of Henry Kissinger at the height of the Cold War, when Algeria was tethered to the former Soviet Union.

Bouteflika famously negotiated with the Venezuelan terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal to free oil ministers who were taken hostage in a 1975 attack on OPEC headquarters in Vienna and flown to Algiers.

Most crucially, he helped reconcile Algeria's citizens after a decade of civil war between radical Muslim militants and Algerian security forces left some 200,000 people dead in the 1990s and nearly tore Algeria apart.

During his 20 years in office, age and illness took a toll on the once-charismatic figure. Corruption scandals over infrastructure and hydrocarbon projects have also dogged him for years and tarnished many of his closest associates.

Algeria has been a key partner to the United States and Europe in fighting Islamic extremism. The recent political crisis caused concern among Western allies.

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Elaine Ganley and Angela Charlton contributed.

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Adamson reported from Paris.

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