Bouteflika asks Algerians for forgiveness as protests continue
Outgoing Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has asked his country for “forgiveness” in a letter published by the Algerian Press Service.
In a letter released by the 82-year-old president on Wednesday, he expressed “gratitude” for “the signs of affection and respect” from his “dear sisters and brothers”.
“To err being human, I ask forgiveness for any failing,” he continued.
Mr Bouteflika also “implored” Algerians “to remain united and never succumb to division” after his resignation.
The ailing leader, who has been in power for 20 years, said he was “proud” of his contributions but realised he had “failed in [his] duty.” He added that he was “leaving the political stage with neither sadness nor fear” for Algeria's future.
His resignation comes following mass protests taking place since February, initially sparked by Mr Bouteflika's announcement that he would stand for a fifth term in national elections.
Algeria's Constitutional Council said it had accepted Bouteflika's resignation and informed parliament that his post was officially vacant. However that might further anger the protesters who drove Bouteflika from power, and who want to overhaul a political system seen as secretive, elitist and corrupt.
“Our session today is related to establishing the vacancy of the post of president of the republic, following the resignation of Mr. Abdelaziz Bouteflika yesterday,” said Constitutional Council president Tayeb Belaiz at Wednesday's meeting.
Protests have continued following Bouteflika's resignation, with 20 Algerian civil society groups said they would refuse a transition of power that maintained the same political structures in place, calling for protests on Friday for “democratic change”.
“Bouteflika's resignation … is a first victory … but it is not enough,” they said in a joint statement.
Abdelkader Bensalah, the speaker of the upper house of parliament, is expected act as interim leader for up to 90 days while a presidential election must be organised.
Ali Benflis, a former head of the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) party, said in a statement that other leading figures should also quit, including Bensalah, interim Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui and constitutional council head Tayeb Belai.
“The Algerian people have just closed one of the darkest chapters in the history of our country,” he said in a statement, calling the protest a “peaceful popular revolution”.