Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced on Monday he will not seek a fifth term in office
President Bouteflika’s candidacy had provoked mass protests across Algeria over the past few weeks.
He has led Algeria for 20 years but has been rarely seen in public since he suffered a stroke in 2013.
Tens of thousands protesters from all parts of society, including students, trade unionists and lawyers, have been demonstrating for more than two weeks.
“There will be no fifth term,” Mr Bouteflika was quoted as saying in a statement. “There was never any question of it for me. Given my state of health and age, my last duty towards the Algerian people was always contributing to the foundation of a new Republic.”
He had pledged last week that he would step down early if re-elected – but the guarantee failed to placate the thousands of demonstrators.
Algeria had been hit by strikes by teachers and students, as well as shops closing and train services being suspended as thousands took to the streets.
Pressure mounted on Mr Bouteflika to withdraw when more than 1,000 judges said on Monday they would refuse to oversee the planned general election were he a candidate.
In a statement, the judges said they should join an effort to “declare that we are the people”.
“We announce our intention to abstain from… supervising the election process against the will of the people, which is the only source of power.”
Then the military’s chief of staff, Lt Gen Gaed Salah, said the military and the people had a united vision of the future – the strongest indication so far that the armed forces were sympathetic to the protests.
Top clerics had already criticised pressure on them to issue pro-government sermons. “Leave us to do our job, don’t interfere,” cleric Imam Djamel Ghoul, leader of an independent group of clerics, told journalists.
Algerians have shown they are no longer willing to accept the status quo, and that will undoubtedly extend to close scrutiny of how the next election plays out.