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Algeria’s President Bouteflika resigns after weeks of protests

Algeria’s long-serving President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has resigned. Bouteflika’s resignation was originally slated to occur before the end of April, and comes after years of declining health.

Under the Algerian constitution, Abdelkader Bensaleh, chairman of the upper house of parliament, will take over as interim president until fresh elections are held.

After two decades in power, Bouteflika had recently come under pressure to resign since he announced in February he would seek a fifth term in office. Bouteflika dropped his re-election bid in March, after weeks of protests, and said he would step down instead.

Popular anger at Bouteflika’s rule has been compounded by concerns over the aging leader’s health. The 82-year-old Algerian president has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, and the opposition argued he was unfit to run the country.

Algeria’s army chief Lt Gen Ahmed Gaed Salah called for Bouteflika’s resignation last week, citing a constitutional provision that allows for a snap election should the president’s health prevent him from properly executing his duties.

Salah was one of several Bouteflika loyalists to distance themselves from the ailing leader in recent weeks.

Although Bouteflika’s later years were marred by declining living standards in Algeria and accusations of corruption and vote-rigging, he was once a national hero. After fighting in the 1954-1962 war to end French colonial rule, he became Algeria’s first foreign minister and a champion of the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War.

During the frozen US-Soviet conflict, Bouteflika welcomed counterculture figures like Nelson Mandela, Che Guevara and Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver to Algiers, and invited Yasser Arafat to address the United Nations General Assembly in 1974, bringing global attention to the Israel/Palestine conflict.