Tlemcen, Algeria – Demonstrators who took to the streets en masse against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s rule reacted in jubilation to his withdrawal from elections but said he now must step down.

In Tlemcen, Bouteflika’s stronghold 540km west of Algiers, the president’s decision was celebrated on Monday night as drivers honked their horns and people on the street cheered.

“The protests have paid off. This is a small victory of the Algerian people over the regime,” Mohamed, a 27-year-old cook, told Al Jazeera while honking his horn.

Hundreds of people joyfully gathered in the capital Algiers’ Audin Square, according to witnesses.

Bouteflika – who has ruled Algeria for decades – has faced three weeks of mass protests against his planned fifth-term run. He relented on Monday by announcing he wouldn’t be running again but said the presidential elections scheduled for April 18 will be postponed indefinitely.

The ailing president, 82, made the unexpected decision in a letter to the Algerian people released on state-owned agency APS, a day after returning from a two-week stay at Geneva University Hospital for “routine medical tests”.

“There will be no fifth term. 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 wrote.


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