Bouteflika offers to leave within one year if re-elected


Published: 2019-03-04 15:22

Last Updated: 2019-03-04 15:53

Bouteflika offers to leave within one year if re-elected
Bouteflika offers to leave within one year if re-elected

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been in power since 1999, offered to step down after a year if re-elected, his campaign manager, Abdelghani Zaalane, said on Sunday.

The 82-year-old leader, who suffered a stroke in 2013, vowed in a letter read out by Zaalane stating that the president pledged to organize an early election that would be held within a year.

Zaalane arrived to submit the documents on Sunday evening, but there was no sign of Bouteflika, who Swiss television said remained at a hospital in Geneva, for what his office described as "routine medical checks".

"I listened and heard the passionate call from the protesters, especially the thousands of young people, who questioned me about the future of our homeland" the letter read, repeating a pledge to hold a referendum on constitutional reform.

Bouteflika's statement was his first since protests broke out 10 days ago which are considered the biggest in Algeria since the 2011 Arab Spring.

Hundreds of students took part in new protests Sunday in Algiers and other cities against a fifth term for ailing President Bouteflika, chanting "Bouteflika go away".

By Sunday evening, seven candidates had registered to run against Bouteflika.

Bouteflika's opponents say he is no longer fit to lead, citing his health and what they called “chronic corruption” and a lack of economic reforms to tackle high unemployment, which exceeds 25% among people under 30.

The government has played on fears among many Algerians of a return of bloodshed seen in the 1990s when an estimated 200 thousand people were killed after Islamists took up arms when the military canceled elections they were poised to win.

But the new series of protests have been generally peaceful, apart from scuffles with police on Friday, leaving 183 people injured.