Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down Tuesday night following more than a month of protests. The protesters are celebrating, but the protests seem likely to continue.
The protests began in February when Mr. Bouteflika said he would run for president for the fifth time. Mr. Bouteflika has led the country for the last 20 years and had already changed the rules of the country so that he could be elected more than twice.
The protests were huge, and got larger over time – sometimes hundreds of thousands of people joined in. Still, the success of the protests has come as a surprise for many people. It is very unusual for peaceful protests to remove a long term president with tight control over a country without anyone getting hurt.
Protests aren’t common in Algeria, where it can be dangerous for people to go against the government. In the past, people who have spoken out against the government have been treated harshly.
The protesters had several reasons for wanting to remove Mr. Bouteflika. Mr. Bouteflika, who is 82, has had some serious illnesses, and the protesters don’t think he is able to do the job anymore. Many people believe that people other than Mr. Bouteflika may have been secretly running the country.
Many of the protesters are young people. Young people in Algeria are having trouble finding jobs. Many people are protesting not just against Mr. Bouteflika, but also against the way the government is run. They believe that business people often use the government to help themselves.
Mr. Bouteflika tried to satisfy the protesters bit by bit. He promised that if he won the election he would hold a second election and not run again. Then he delayed the election. He removed most of the members of his government. He promised that he would step down by April 28. But none of these small steps stopped the protests.
The army played a big part in the protests, simply by allowing them to happen. By watching without interfering, the army allowed the protesters to make their point.
Later, the leader of the army, Ahmed Gaid Salah, put a lot of pressure on Mr. Bouteflika by saying that he might use the country’s laws to remove him as president.
With Mr. Bouteflika out as president, Abdelkader Bensalah, who is currently the leader of the country’s Senate, will take over as president. Mr. Bensalah has worked closely with Mr. Bouteflika in the past. New elections must be held in the next 90 days.
The protesters have continued going into the streets to cheer and celebrate. But many say they won’t stop their protests. They aren’t happy that Mr. Bouteflika chose all the people who are in charge of the government now. The protesters want to remove the other people who were part of the country’s leadership.
Removing a powerful president with large, peaceful protests is one thing. But many people aren’t sure what will come next for Algeria. A lot will depend on who comes to power now that Mr. Bouteflika has stepped down.
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