Algeria’s Constitutional Council met Wednesday to confirm the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Constitutional Council president Tayeb Belaiz opened Wednesday’s meeting of the 12-member body. He said the reason for the meeting was to establish the “vacancy of the post of president of the republic.”
Bouteflika, who is 82, appeared Tuesday on national television to give his resignation letter to Belaiz. Bouteflika has not spoken publicly since he suffered a stroke in 2013. On television, he appeared very weak.
After Bouteflika’s televised resignation, protesters celebrated with songs and waving flags in the capital city, Algiers.
Bouteflika ruled the country for 20 years and was a major member of the Arab World’s political leadership.
Bouteflika’s ally, Abdelkader Bensalah, is expected to take over as a temporary leader while the cou ntry plans presidential elections. He is the president of the upper house of parliament. He will take over for 90 days, as called for in the Algerian Constitution.
The move may anger the protesters who demanded Bouteflika’s resignation. They want to change a system they consider to be secretive and corrupt.
Bensalah has run the upper house for the past 17 years, and has held high-ranking political positions for the past 25 years. But he has mostly stayed out of the public eye. He is known as a politician who works quietly to make compromises and solve problems.
Bensalah is also a big part of the country’s political elite. Protesters worry that those involved in the political changes are too close to the elite power structure, including Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui. He has been accused of aiding in fraud during the last presidential election in 2014. He is also known for violently halting past protests.
New protests are already planned for Friday, April 5. There have been large, peaceful protests the past six Fridays. Such gatherings have surprised Algeria’s leadership.
The protesters, however, do not appear to have unifying political demands for the future. It is also not known what the military and Bouteflika’s supporters in the government will do next. Military chief of staff Ahmed Gaid Salah reportedly pushed for Bouteflika’s resignation.
Leaders from around the world are closely watching Algeria’s political crisis. Many are worried about the possibility that the crisis may interfere with gas and oil deliveries to Europe and Africa.
A Russian government spokesman warned against foreign interference in Algerian politics. Dmitry Peskov said that “we hope the…processes in that country ... will by no means affect the friendly nature of our relations.” Russia and Algeria have been economic and political allies since Soviet times.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he hoped Algeria would have a “democratic transition in the same spirit of calm and responsibility” that has marked the recent protests. France was once Algeria’s colonial ruler and is an important trading partner. French leadership was criticized early in the protest movement for appearing to support Bouteflika.
The U.S. State Department has expressed support for the peaceful protests. It says it is up to Algerians to decide what comes next.
Since fighting a violent Islamist uprising in the 1990s, Algeria has worked closely with the United States and Europe against terrorism.
I’m Susan Shand.
The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
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Words in this Story
vacancy - n. a job or position that is available to be taken
stroke - n. a serious illness caused when a blood vessel in your brain suddenly breaks or is blocked
elite - n. the people who have the most wealth and status in a society
fraud - n. the crime of using dishonest methods to take something valuable from another person
transition - n. a change from one state or condition to another
spirit - n. the attitude or feeling that a person has about a particular job, activity, etc.