Algeria’s ailing leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika submitted his resignation with immediate effect, state television said Tuesday, ceding power in the face of massive street protests after two decades at the helm.
Bouteflika “officially advised the Constitutional Council of the end of his term of office as President of the Republic” from Tuesday, said a news ticker on the public broadcaster.
Long accused of clinging to power, Bouteflika has come under mounting pressure to step down since his decision to seek a fifth term despite rarely being seen in public after suffering a stroke in 2013.
The 82-year-old, who uses a wheelchair, said last month he would pull out of the bid for another term, and on Monday his office said he would resign before his mandate expires at the end of the month.
The moves failed to satisfy protesters who feared a ploy to extend his rule and the armed forces chief called for him to leave power.
His resignation was also reported by the official APS news agency, which said Bouteflika had “formally notified the head of the Constitutional Council of his decision to end his term of office”.
His departure comes after 20 years of rule, with the veteran of the independence struggle finally losing his grip after weeks of massive street protests and the loss of support from key loyalists.
Car horns sounded in the street as small crowds of people began gathering to celebrate in Algiers.
The United States said the future of Algeria was now up to its people.
“Questions about how to navigate this transition in Algeria, that is for the Algerian people to decide,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters.
Algeria’s constitution says that once the president officially resigns the speaker of the upper house of parliament would act as interim leader for up to 90 days during which a presidential election must be organised.
The resignation came shortly after the military demanded impeachment proceedings be launched against Bouteflika immediately as it dismissed the announcement he would resign before his mandate expires.
Armed forces chief Ahmed Gaid Salah called for “the immediate application of the constitutional procedure for removing the head of state from power”, in a defence ministry statement after a meeting of top brass.
The statement said the army considered an announcement from the presidency on Monday that Bouteflika would resign by the end of his term on April 28 as invalid because it did not come from the president himself.
“Any decision taken outside the constitutional framework is considered null and void,” the general said.
Without naming anyone, Gaid Salah criticised “the stubbornness, the procrastination and the deviousness of certain individuals who are trying to make the crisis last and make it more complex with the only concern being their narrow personal interests”.
He said the army’s “sole ambition” was to “protect the people from a handful of (other) people who have unduly taken over the wealth of the Algerian people”.