By Lamine Chikhi
ALGIERS (Reuters) – A leader of Algeria’s ruling FLN party said that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has announced he will not stand for another term after mass protests, “is history now” and the party has to look forward and support demonstrators.
The remarks by Hocine Kheldoun to Ennahar television late on Thursday are another major blow to Bouteflika, who hoped to pacify Algerians by promising to take steps to change the political landscape which has been dominated by the president and the ruling elite for decades.
FLN holds the majority in all elected assemblies, including parliament and local city councils.
Tens of thousands of Algerians have staged protests for weeks demanding a new era with younger leaders who would offer greater social freedoms and a healthy economy.
Bouteflika, 82, has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013. He has lost one ally after another in recent weeks as he clings to power.
A former minister who is familiar with Bouteflika’s inner circle told Reuters that the president could not survive given the pressure that has been building against him from Algerians of all social classes.
“Game over. Bouteflika has no choice but to quit now,” he said.
Many Algerians complain that the ailing president and other veterans of the 1954-1962 war of independence against France must hand over power to young technocrats who can focus on unemployment, poor services and stamping out corruption.
The military, which has traditionally played a behind-the-scenes power broker role, has stayed in its barracks throughout the crisis. Security forces have been restrained.
(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Peter Graff)