A crowd of Algerians is celebrating President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's resignation after 20 years in power and weeks of mass protests, the AP reports. Several hundred people gathered in front of the central post office in downtown Algiers, the capital, on Tuesday night after his announcement. The crowd was peaceful, singing songs and waving Algerian flags while drivers passing by honked horns in celebration. An official in Bouteflika's office told the AP that the leader resigned, a few weeks before the end of his fourth term. The move came after six weeks of mass protests and soon after the army chief urged him to step down immediately. The Constitutional Council is expected to meet Wednesday to confirm the resignation and declare the president of the upper house of parliament as interim leader for 90 days until presidential elections are held.
The protests were aimed at pushing Bouteflika and his much-criticized inner circle from power to create a real democracy in the gas-rich nation. Corruption scandals had dogged him and associates, and he had failed to create an economy that could offer enough jobs for Algeria's growing youth population despite the nation's vast oil and gas wealth. In a country where secrecy surrounds the leadership, it has never been clear whether Bouteflika was fully in charge or whether the powerful army was pulling the strings. His resignation was preceded by a series of moves at the top, including a new government announced days ago and, above all, calls by Army chief Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah for Bouteflika to submit to Article 102 of the Constitution that would declare him unfit for office. Gaid Salah added two more articles called for by protesters, notably Article 7, which stipulates that "the people are the source of power." The Defense Ministry statement Tuesday appeared to be a final warning. (Read more Algeria stories.)