Late in the day Tuesday the official Algerian state press agency APS announced the two-decade long ruler, Presdient Bouteflika, has formally resigned, finally giving in to both popular protests that have rocked the country for weeks, and following demands issued by army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah that he immediately handover power.
“President Bouteflika notified the president of the Constitutional Council of his decision to put an end to his term,” a translation of the APS news release reads.
Have we just witnessed a quiet military coup in Algeria? Or is this a willing handover of power per constitutional requirements that the ailing 82-year old president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, unable to perform his public duties since suffering a strong years ago, should step down?
The resignation came just moments after the Army repeated calls for him to leave immediately — a demand reportedly coupled with security forces arresting businessmen known to be close to Bouteflika.
One week ago the military said it was prepared to act against the two-decade long ruler who had rarely been seen in public since his stroke in 2013. At that time General Salah, commander of the army as well as the country’s deputy defense minister, said in a live speech broadcast on private television station Ennahar that the protesters' demands that he not run for a fifth term were "legitimate".
"To resolve the crisis [in the country] right now, the implementation of article 102 is necessary and is the only guarantee to maintain a peaceful political situation," Gen. Salah said on March 27. "These protests have continued up till now in a peaceful and civilized way ... and could be exploited by parties with bad intentions inside and outside of Algeria," the general added.
UPDATE #Algeria :— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) April 2, 2019
• Army calls for President Bouteflika Exit IMMEDIATELY
• Cites Articles 102, 8, 7
• Says it agrees w people demands
• Said yesterday’s statement Null
• 13 businesssmen arrested, can’t travel (corruption)
• Calls for immediate transition, no delay
Algeria's army chief further called for the invocation of a constitutional clause declaring the office of the presidency vacant.
The army gave Bouteflika two weeks to vacate, and on Monday state media indicated he was expected to step down before his term expired on April 28.
The Algerian constitution indicates power goes to the chairman of the upper house of parliament, in this case Abdelkader Bensaleh, who becomes interim president until fresh elections are held.