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Critics blast Algeria's Bouteflika for clinging on to power by postponing elections

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Critics blast Algeria's Bouteflika for clinging on to power by postponing elections
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Thousands of Algerians welcomed President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's announcement that he would not seek office for a fifth term by rushing to the streets on Monday evening to celebrate.

But the cheering, flag-waving and sounding of klaxons had calmed down on Tuesday morning as wariness set in.

The Algerian leader, at the helm of the country since 1999, also announced on Monday that the April elections would be postponed and that a new constitution would be put to a referendum — but there has been no word as to when either would be held.

This shows that "he gives in on the presidential but not on power," independent newspaper El Watan wrote in an editorial titled "Bouteflika's last trick".

TSA Algerie, another newspaper, warned that "Bouteflika will remain president of the republic until a time that suits him, and the system."

"Algerians must be vigilant to not have their beautiful and joyful revolution confiscated," it added.

Fatiha Benabou, a constitutional law expert at the University of Algiers, highlighted to AFP news agency that Bouteflika's address to the country did not refer to any legislation allowing for the presidential ballot to be delayed.

"There is no legal basis for postponing the elections," she said, adding that "in the event of a political crisis, the Algerian constitution is partially ineffective."

Ali Benflis who worked as Bouteflika's prime minister from 2000 to 2003 before creating his own party, Talaie El-Hurriyet, and establishing himself as one of the leading opposition figures, said in a Facebook post: "The extension of the fourth term is an act of aggression against the constitution by non-constitutional forces (hinting at the shadow advisers surrounding the president, first and foremost his brother Said)."