Published: Thu, March 14, 2019
Worldwide | By Stella Potter

Macron calls for 'reasonable' transition period in Algeria

Macron calls for 'reasonable' transition period in Algeria

Half a dozen police vans were parked around the Place de la Grande Poste, which has been the epicentre of protests demanding Bouteflika resign.

Since the outbreak of protests last month, Algeria's army chief, Ahmed Gaid Salah, has pledged to guarantee national security and criticized those he said want to return to the "painful years" of the civil war of the 1990s.

"I think Algeria has drawn lessons from what's happened elsewhere", she said, adding the population has no appetite for revisiting its bloody past. But that didn't satisfy those rallying against him.

This is the clearest sign yet that Algeria's powerful armed forces are sympathetic to the protests, the BBC's Mark Lowen reports. Local residents joined the march on Tuesday while more demonstrations were held in other Algerian cities.

An Algerian youth waves a national flag as he sits atop a auto during a demonstration in the centre of the capital Algiers on March 11, 2019, after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his withdrawal.

Demonstrators immediately celebrated Bouteflika's reversal - even as they repeated calls for him to leave office immediately.

The ailing leader has postponed the 18 April presidential elections after his candidacy provoked mass protests over the past few weeks.

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.

While he abandoned his bid for a fifth term in office, his simultaneous postponement of an election set for next month has critics anxious he intends to hold on to power indefinitely.

"Algerians are skeptical, they're waiting to digest this information", France 24 journalist Meriem Amellal said, as questions about the status quo lingered Tuesday.

So much about the 82-year-old Bouteflika, badly weakened by a 2013 stroke, has remained an enigma. Since then, he essentially has been absent from the public eye, often represented at government events only by a framed portrait.

"I believe it profoundly", replied Algeria's newly named vice prime minister, Ramtane Lamamra, who some speculate might succeed Bouteflika as president, when asked whether his country was marking a turning point. Kader Abderrahim, a Paris-based expert on the politics of Algeria and the region, told France Culture radio that if in 1962 Algeria had experienced independence, history would remember that in 2019 the country had found its freedom.

The global reaction was comparably upbeat, as French President Emmanuel Macron proclaimed the beginning of a new chapter in Algerian history, provided the transition period has a "reasonable duration".

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