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TIMELINE: Protests in Algeria

AFP , Wednesday 10 Apr 2019
Algeria Protests
File Photo: People protest against Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in Algiers, Algeria March 8, 2019 (Photo: Reuters)
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Mass protests that led Algeria's ailing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down last week after 20 years in power have grown into demands for broader political changes.

After Wednesday's announcement of elections in July, here is a timeline of the events rocking the North African nation.

- 'No fifth mandate' -
On February 22 tens of thousands of people demonstrate in Algiers and several other cities in the first major protests against Bouteflika's candidacy in April 18 elections.

Thousands chant "No fifth mandate!" for the president, who was first elected in 1999.

The 82-year-old Bouteflika is rarely seen in public following a stroke in 2013 that affected his speech and left him wheelchair-bound.

- Election delayed -
On March 1 tens of thousands protest across the country, including in the second- and third-largest cities Oran and Constantine.

Two days later state television airs a letter from the president in which he vows not to serve a full term if re-elected, and to organise early polls in which he will not stand.

On March 8 tens of thousands of people in several cities take part in the biggest rallies yet against Bouteflika's candidacy.

The day after the president returns from medical treatment in Switzerland, he announces on March 11 that he is dropping his new bid for office.

He scraps the elections altogether and says the vote will take place following a constitutional review.

- Army chief adds pressure -
Amid fears Bouteflika will cling to power despite his vow not to run, a huge crowd marches through Algiers on March 15 and major protests rock other key cities.

Foreign diplomats say millions are on the streets.

On March 22, a month after the protests started, hundreds of thousands of Algerians again stage demonstrations across the country.

In a major development, army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah -- considered loyal to Bouteflika -- on March 26 demands the president steps down or be declared medically unfit to rule.

A day later the ruling party's long-time coalition ally, the National Rally for Democracy (RND), says it "recommends the resignation of the president".

The country's main union also welcomes the army chief's call.

On March 29 hundreds of thousands of protesters again throng the streets, saying moves by his top loyalists to abandon Bouteflika do not go far enough.

Two days later, Bouteflika names a new government headed by ex-interior minister Noureddine Bedoui.

- Resignation -
On April 1 state media announces Bouteflika will resign before his mandate expires on April 28.

The next day Salah, the army chief, demands impeachment proceedings against the president begin immediately.

On April 2 state television announces that Bouteflika has submitted his resignation with immediate effect.

The decision "is destined to contribute to the appeasement of the hearts and minds of my compatriots," it quotes his resignation letter as saying.

TV footage shows a frail Bouteflika handing the letter to the head of the constitutional council, Tayeb Belaiz.

- New elections -
Jubilant crowds cheer his departure, while continuing to demanding an overhaul of the remaining political elite.

Masses of people again fill the streets on April 5, calling out the regime stalwarts still in place.

They target the "3B" -- prime minister Bedoui, constitution council head Belaiz and upper house speaker Abdelakder Bensalah.

On April 9 Bensalah is named interim president for 90 days until elections are organised.

Opposition parties refuse to validate his nomination and thousands of students protest, demanding the departure of Bensalah and the entire ruling system.

Demonstrations continue the following day, as the interim leader pledges "transparent" polls and his office says elections will be held on July 4.

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