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Algeria's longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign by April 28

AFP file photo | Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has rarely been seen in public since he suffered a stroke in 2013.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika will step down before his mandate ends on April 28, his office said Monday in a statement broadcast on state media.

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The president will take "steps to ensure state institutions continue to function during the transition period", said the statement, adding his "resignation would occur before April 28, 2019".

Under the Algerian constitution, Abdelkader Bensalah, chairman of the upper house of parliament, would take over as caretaker president for 90 days until elections are held.

The ailing 82-year-old Algerian president, who has rarely been seen in public since a 2013 stroke, has come under mounting pressure to quit since he announced his decision to seek a fifth term in office.

Following weeks of mass demonstrations, Bouteflika announced on March 11 that he was dropping his bid for a fifth term and that the April elections would be postponed.

The announcements, however, failed to appease protesters who saw them as ploys to extend Bouteflika’s two decades in power.

Monday’s announcement that the president would take steps to ensure continuity in the management of state institutions was also unlikely to satisfy demonstrators, according to FRANCE 24’s International Affairs Editor Rob Parsons.

“They do not want continuity, they want change and what this seems like is that Bouteflika’s appointees are controlling the transition process,” explained Parsons.

New cabinet, old army chief

The announcement came a day after Bouteflika's office announced the formation of a new cabinet of 27 ministers headed by the recently appointed Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui.

Veteran politician Ramtane Lamamra, who was appointed deputy prime minister and foreign minister on March 11, was not named in the new administration.

However Ahmed Gaid Salah, who has called for Bouteflika to step down, remained as army chief of staff and deputy defence minister.

Faced with persistent public anger, a succession of veteran Bouteflika loyalists have deserted the president in recent days.

Last week, Salah, who was appointed in 2004, called for the ailing Algerian president to step down or be declared medically unfit.

The chief of staff cited Article 102 of the constitution, under which a president can be removed if found unfit to rule.

Long a faithful Bouteflika supporter, Salah said on television it was "imperative" to find a way out of the crisis "which responds to the legitimate demands" of the people in line with the constitution.

Algeria’s ‘wealthiest entrepreneur arrested’

Algerian authorities on Monday seized the passports of seven businessmen over corruption allegations, the private Ennahar TV reported Monday.

The seizures came hours after Ali Haddad, a leading Algerian businessman with close ties to Bouteflika, was arrested overnight Saturday into Sunday at a border post with neighbouring Tunisia, a security source told AFP.

Haddad, who Forbes magazine describes as one of Algeria's wealthiest entrepreneurs, has business interests in construction, hotels as well as media outlets.

“He was carrying a British passport and large sums of money when he was arrested, according to local media,” said FRANCE 24’s Moncef Ait Kaci. “The reason for the reported arrest is not clear. Last night the ETRHB group that he owns denounced the disappearance of the businessman.”

On Sunday, the Algerian authorities also banned all private aircraft from taking off and landing until the end of the month.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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