Bouteflika asks forgiveness as Algerians demand more change

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Algeria’s former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has apologised to his compatriots in a public farewell letter a day after he stepped down following weeks of mass protests and loss of support from the army.

In the letter released by the APS news agency on Wednesday, the ailing 82-year-old said he was “proud” of his contribution to the country, and urged the Algerian people to “stay united”.

“I ask your forgiveness for any failing towards you,” he wrote, adding: “I am leaving the political scene without sadness or fear, for the future of our country.”

The move came as Algeria’s Constitutional Council said it had accepted Bouteflika’s resignation and informed parliament that his post was officially vacant.

Some 20 Algerian civil society groups said they would refuse a transition of power that kept the same structure in place, calling for protests on Friday for “democratic change”.

“Bouteflika’s resignation … is a first victory … but it is not enough,” they said in a joint statement.

Algeria‘s constitution says that the speaker of the upper house of parliament, currently 77-year-old Abdelkader Bensalah, should now act as interim leader for up to 90 days during which a presidential election must be organised.

A one-time journalist and former ambassador, Bensalah has held senior political positions for the past 25 years but has kept a low profile, rarely giving interviews or appearing at public events.

He has led the country’s upper house for most of Bouteflika’s 20-year rule.

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