Some of the protesters chanted “No tricks, Bouteflika,” while others declared that he was simply prolonging his fourth term. One protester carried a sign that read: “No to the 4.75 term.”
While a political shake-up in the government was also announced Monday, along with the promise of political and economic changes, Bouteflika will remain president until the next elections. No new date has been set for a vote, which was originally scheduled for April 18.
On Tuesday, many Algerians on social media and on the streets demanded more clarity. They questioned whether they were seeing a real transition or a political ploy designed to break down the massive public pressure that forced Bouteflika into issuing a letter promising he would no longer seek the presidency.
“This last false promise #Bouteflika is in addition to all the false hopes he has aroused,” wrote a Twitter user identified as Yanis who displayed an Algerian flag on his Twitter handle. “The letter of yesterday is still a maneuver to break the citizen movement and still continue in power.”
Tens of thousands of Algerians have swept into the streets of Algiers and other Algerian cities after Bouteflika announced in early February he would run again for office. He had not been seen publicly by most Algerians since he suffered a stroke six years ago. Many Algerians were also fed up with the high youth employment, corruption, and an economy battered by low oil prices.
The demonstrations grew to include Algerians from all social classes, including judges, clerics and other influential figures and allies of Bouteflika — becoming reminiscent of the Arab Spring revolts of 2011. Bouteflika became the fifth Arab leader to be forced out of office by collective pressure from the masses, following authoritarian leaders in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia.
But Tuesday’s protests — more are expected this week — suggest that many Algerians are now demanding a more extensive political transformation. As of now, Bouteflika’s ruling clique, still comprising his relatives and veterans who fought against French colonial rule in the mid-20th century, are poised to remain in power even when he is no longer president.
“We won nothing, the same power and the same heads, why are you shouting victory?” read a tweet in a thread among Algerians discussing Bouteflika.