Will Algeria's President Resign? Abdelaziz Bouteflika Reportedly Set to Step Down After Weeks of Protests

Algeria's embattled president is expected to resign this week after two decades in power, according to Algerian media reports.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 82, who is reportedly in poor health, has faced mounting public opposition after he announced he would seek a fifth term in February. Persistent street protests have rocked the North African country, and a leading general suggested the country should invoke a constitutional clause to formally remove the president. Although Bouteflika has since said he would not seek another term, he has postponed elections and protests have continued in hopes of ensuring his removal from power and political change.

#Algeria 🇩🇿: another Friday, another day of mass protests. The streets of the capital #Algiers are filled with protesters demanding the downfall of the Algerian regime.#حراك_29_مارس pic.twitter.com/4FOhbQqs9c

— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) March 29, 2019

"We must adopt a solution that helps us out of this crisis…a solution that respects and adheres to the constitution so that it's a suitable one for all sides," Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah, who serves as Algeria's deputy defense minister, said last week, Al Jazeera reported. On Saturday, Salah reiterated his call for employing Article 102 of the constitution, which allows the Constitutional Council to determine, with the approval of parliament, that a sitting president is no longer fit to serve.

In what analysts believe was preparation for Bouteflika's resignation or an attempt to invoke Article 102, Bouteflika and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui announced the formation of a new caretaker government on Sunday. That government would remain in place until an election could be held.

Speaking on behalf of protesters, Mostefa Bouchachi, a human rights lawyer in Algiers who has become a leading opposition figure, told The New York Times, "The message is very clear.

"We don't want these symbols of a corrupted system that has betrayed the popular will. We want real change. All of those who have been in government up until now, we want these people to leave," Bouchachi said. "And we want a government of national unity to make this transition, men and women who are clean, who have not taken part in the misrule of the last 20 years," he said.

#Algeria: Water Cannon seen used against peaceful protesters today.

This is week 6 of protests to end Bouteflika’s rule. Video: pic.twitter.com/HcS6Ec2XHQ

— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) March 29, 2019

Since suffering a stroke in 2013, Bouteflika has rarely been seen in public, according to CNN. Despite his weakened physical state, his allies in the government have generally stood behind him and defended his grip on power. But as popular demonstrations entered their sixth week, even former allies began to call for change.

Writing for Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National, Sholto Byrnes, a fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia, explained that when Bouteflika took office in 1999 he was widely popular.

"His Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation received overwhelming support, and even critics praise his role in helping Algeria's transition to post-conflict stability, in re-engaging the country in international affairs and security partnerships and in mostly successfully cracking down on and marginalizing violent extremism," Byrnes wrote. The analyst also said, however, that it should "be welcomed that Algeria appears to have the chance to change without chaos and violence."