Algerian President Bouteflika pulls candidacy for fifth term

Algerians bemused as Bouteflika pulls out of presidential race postpones election

Protesters returned to Algeria's streets Tuesday after jubilation over ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's vow not to seek re-election gave way to fears of a plot to prolong his two-decade rule.

The white Gulfstream 4SP jet, with "People's Democratic Republic of Algeria" written on the side and the Algerian flag on the tail, landed at the Geneva worldwide airport Cointrin shortly before 10am.

"Our protests have borne fruit!"

"For us, this news is essentially an extension of the mandate of the current president, [but] it has no constitutional basis", he said. And the legitimacy of an election does not stop at the ballot box - the ruling elite, the country's judges, and its electoral bodies will need to demonstrate a genuine will to ensure a free and fair poll.

Shortly after the announcement, hundreds of Algerians have been celebrating President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's decision not to seek a fifth term in office. A new constitution would be submitted to the public for a referendum. "Given my state of health and age, my last duty towards the Algerian people was always contributing to the foundation of a new Republic". "Bouteflika can still remain in power until the end of the so-called national conference, with no guarantees or a timetable". The conference will be headed by an "independent, consensual and experienced national figure". Ramtane Lamamra, who was Bouteflika's diplomatic adviser, was appointed deputy prime minister, it said.

Lakhdar Brahimi, a former foreign minister and United Nations special envoy, is expected to chair the conference.

"Justice must keep its distance from political tensions", he said.

Bouteflika, who came to power in the aftermath of Algeria's 1954-62 independence war against France, has promised "deep reforms".

Algerian president back home amid mass protests against him

"This is not a victory for the people because Bouteflika's measures are not consistent with the people's will".

"We have won the battle".

This is all too distant and too vague for many Algerians, especially the young, who are seeking real change to an ossified political system dominated by opaque cliques of officials, businessmen and politicians amid soaring unemployment, widespread corruption and a chronic shortage of accommodation.

Even if Bouteflika's position becomes untenable, it is not clear who could replace him.

Top clerics have also criticised pressure on them to issue pro-government sermons.

Huge crowds gathered in several cities and Ennahar TV reported workers began a strike that paralyzed operations at the Mediterranean port at Bajaia.

Algeria's powerful military is expected to play a behind-the-scenes role during the transition and is now considering several civilians as candidates for the presidency and other top positions, political sources said.

The security forces have been mostly restrained during the demonstrations, a signal of the establishment's eroding willingness to keep the president in power through force.

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