Long-serving Algeria President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has finally ceded some ground and dropped his bid for a fifth term. However, many Algerians are not persuaded and have vowed to sustain protests to force his immediate exit.
The caveat in the Bouteflika offer, which betrays his intentions, is that the April 18 presidential election be postponed. That would accord the man beset by a debilitating ailment and the frailties of old age an opportunity to prolong his 20-year rule.
Since suffering a stroke in 2013, he rarely makes public appearances or statements, leaving many wondering whether it was him or his cronies running the show in the North African state. The name of his brother has particularly featured prominently as the power behind the throne, hence the unwillingness to let go.
Algerians are unequivocal: President Bouteflika has done his bit and has to leave office. Even institutions such as the Judiciary are up against the 81-year-old leader. Particularly disenchanted are the youth, who have no memories of Algeria’s troubled past.
On his assent to power in 1999 after a two-decade egregious civil war with Islamist insurgents, President Bouteflika offered hope to the nation and enjoyed enviable popularity. To his credit, riding the soaring oil prices, he stopped the conflict and restored economic stability with huge investments, especially in infrastructure and a generous loan scheme for multitudes. Then the oil prices took a plunge and the consequences were drastic.
With time, however, power corrupted President Bouteflika, and in 2008 he amended the Constitution to remove the two-term presidential limit. Having survived the Arab Spring that swept through North Africa and the Middle East in 2011, one would expect President Bouteflika to have learnt his lesson.
Time is up, and the only option is for him to exit the scene.