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Middle East

Chronology of protests that led to ouster of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika

Chronology of protests that led to ouster of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika

ALGIERS: Here is a timeline of the political drama in the north African nation:

• On Feb. 22, tens of thousands of people demonstrate in several cities in the first major protests against Bouteflika’s candidacy in planned April 18 elections. After rallying calls on social media, thousands turn out to chant “No fifth mandate!” — including in Algiers, where demonstrations have been banned since 2001. Police fire tear gas to block a march on the presidential palace, prompting some demonstrators to respond by throwing stones.

• On Feb. 26, thousands of students rally peacefully in Algiers. Two days later, a dozen journalists are detained for several hours as they participate in a rally against alleged censorship of protest coverage.

• On March 1, tens of thousands protest across the country, including in second and third cities Oran and Constantine. In Algiers, some protesters chant: “Regime murderers!“

• On March 2, Bouteflika, in Switzerland for nearly a week undergoing “routine medical checks,” sacks his veteran campaign manager. The next day, state television airs a letter from the president in which he vows not to serve a full term if re-elected, and to organize early polls in which he will not stand. Shortly afterward, his new campaign manager formally submits the president’s candidacy, just ahead of the deadline.

• On March 5, as thousands march again, the army chief pledges to guarantee national security, accusing unidentified groups of wanting a return to the “painful years” of Algeria’s 1992-2002 civil war.

• Bouteflika on March 7 warns of “chaos” if troublemakers infiltrate the demonstrations.

• On March 8, tens of thousands in several cities take part in the biggest rallies yet against Bouteflika’s candidacy.

• On March 10, Bouteflika returns from Switzerland. The next day, he pulls out of the race and cancels the elections. “There will not be a fifth term,” he announces on official media. Interior Minister Noureddine Bedoui is named prime minister, replacing unpopular premier Ahmed Ouyahia.

• On March 15, a huge crowd marches through Algiers for a fourth consecutive Friday, demanding Bouteflika’s departure. Major protests rock other key cities.

• On March 18, Bouteflika issues a statement confirming he will stay on as president beyond the end of his term on April 28 and until new elections are held, following a constitutional review.

• On March 22, exactly a month after the protests started, hundreds of thousands of Algerians again stage demonstrations across the country.

• On March 26 army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah demands Bouteflika step down or be declared medically unfit to rule. A day later the ruling party’s long-time coalition ally, the National Rally for Democracy (RND) of former Prime Minister Ouyahia, says it “recommends the resignation of the president.”

• On March 28, the president of Algeria’s Business Leaders Forum, Ali Haddad, close to Bouteflika, resigns. The next day, hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters throng the streets of Algiers and other cities. Demonstrators say top loyalists’ moves to abandon Bouteflika do not go far enough.

• On March 31, Bouteflika names a new government headed by Bedoui. Salah, the armed forces chief who has called for the president to step down, remains as deputy defense minister.

• On April 1, a statement on state media says Bouteflika will resign before his mandate expires on April 28.

• On Tuesday, Salah demands immediate impeachment proceedings against Bouteflika. Shortly afterward, state television reports that the president has informed the Constitutional Council that he is resigning effective immediately.

• On Wednesday, the Constitutional Council officially accepts his resignation and informs Parliament that his post is vacant. The new government makes a series of conciliatory moves toward the press, opposition, NGOs and unions. Bouteflika apologizes to the Algerian people, in a letter published by state media, but says he is “proud” of his contribution.

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