Mar 12, 2019 07:45 Asia/Tehran

Algeria’s president has abandoned his attempt to seek a fifth term in office, amid protests against the country’s changeless political scene.

Iran Press/AfricaAlgeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced he will not seek a fifth term and delayed the country's presidential polls amid mass protests against his reelection bid. 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia resigned on Monday and was replaced by Interior Minister Noureddine Bedoui.

Also Ramtane Lamamra was named deputy prime minister, a position that did not exist before.

In a message carried by the official APS news agency on Monday, the 82-year-old also said the elections would follow a national conference on political and constitutional reform to be carried out by the end of 2019.

"There will be no presidential election on April 18," Bouteflika said in reference to the scheduled date of the vote, adding he was responding to a "pressing demand that you have been numerous to make". 

The dramatic developments followed weeks of mass demonstrations against Bouteflika's plan to extend his 20-year rule. The unprecedented citizens' revolt drew millions to the streets of cities across the country, reported Aljazeera.

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Celebrations popped up instead of protests on the streets of the capital, Algiers, at Monday's news. Car horns rang out while people waved flags, jumped up and down, and sang the national anthem. 

Others were more cautious, calling their long-time leader's pledge to step aside just a first step. Bouteflika did not give a date or timeline for the delayed election.

Critics said they fear the moves could pave the way for the president to install a hand-picked successor. Others saw his decision to postpone the election indefinitely as a threat to democracy in Algeria.

"Even if this is a beautiful victory for the Algerian people and the gesture was there, I do not believe that the entire regime and its system is going to collapse," Dalia Ghanem Yazbeck, a resident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center, told Al Jazeera.

"This is a regime that is composed of different strata and circles of power. You have the [ruling party] FLN apparatchik, you have the bureaucracy, political and military leadership and you have business tycoons," she added.

Fading fame of Bouteflika

A veteran of the country's war of independence against colonial France, Bouteflika has seen his popularity wane in recent years as a result of his deteriorating health. 

On Monday, Algerian state television aired the first images of Bouteflika since the protests started. He appeared weak and moved with slow gestures. No sound accompanied the images.

Massive protests began on February 22 to denounce Bouteflika's plans to extend his rule in the upcoming polls.

On March 3, after his campaign manager officially registered Bouteflika's candidacy, the president tried to appease protesters by offering to hold a national dialogue conference, change the constitution and hold a vote within a year of his reelection in which he promised not to take part. 

The promises, however, failed to quell public anger, galvanizing discontent among different sectors, particularly students and other young people. 104/211/203

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