Algeria's longtime president has conceded to popular demands to abandon his re-election bid after three weeks of massive protests rocked the North African country of 41 million.
But a giant question mark now hangs over what happens next, leaving Algerians and investors alike — particularly those in the oil and gas sector — mired in uncertainty.
"There will be no fifth term," a statement from 82-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is in his 20th year in power but has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, said on Monday.
Silent throughout the Arab Spring, Africa's largest country and third-largest oil producer erupted in protest in late February after its ageing president announced his fifth re-election bid. The protests, leaderless and largely peaceful, represented a wide cross-section of society including students, teachers, lawyers, and the working class.
"There was never any question of it for me," the president's statement continued. "Given my state of health and age, my last duty towards the Algerian people was always contributing to the foundation of a new Republic."
Algeria's general election, scheduled for April 18, has now been postponed. But demonstrations continued this week in Algerian cities as protesters read Bouteflika's concession as simply a maneuver to prolong his presidency.