THU 21 - 11 - 2019
Mar 28, 2019
The Daily Star
Bouteflika’s key allies back army plan to oust him
ALGIERS: Algeria’s army appeared certain to secure the end of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s 20-year rule after winning over his key allies, but the managed exit plan was rejected by protesters demanding the overthrow of the entire political elite.
The shift by pillars of the regime Wednesday was a clear signal that the 82-year-old president, who has rarely appeared in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, has little to no chance of staying in power for much longer in the North African country, an oil and gas producer.
The army’s powerful chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Gaid Salah, told officers in a speech broadcast Tuesday that the solution to the crisis would be the departure of the president on health grounds.
Salah called on Algeria’s Constitutional Council to rule on whether Bouteflika was fit for office. Such a ruling would have to be ratified by a two-thirds majority of members in the two houses of Parliament.
In the heaviest blow to the ailing leader, the ruling FLN party said it backed the army’s bid to have the Constitutional Council declare him unfit for office.
“We announce our support for the initiative as a start to a constitutional plan that will allow us to protect our country from dangers,” the party said in a statement.
That move came after Algeria’s biggest union and a powerful party that is part of the ruling coalition announced they would back the military’s approach.
The army has been patiently waiting for the right moment to intervene.
Now that the generals have emptied Bouteflika’s inner circle, they are well-positioned to play their traditional role of kingmaker in any transition. But the military will face resistance from the leaders of mass demonstrations fueled by anger over alleged corruption, nepotism and economic mismanagement who said the plan still did not go far enough.“Protests will continue ... Algerians’ demands include a change of the political system,” Mustapha Bouchachi, a lawyer and activist, told Reuters.
“The implementation of Article 102 [the part of the constitution that covers declaring a president unfit for office] means that the symbols of the system will oversee the transition period and organize elections,” he said.
The army chief has warned he will not tolerate chaos, but he also praised Algerians for pursuing “noble aims.”
Protesters have repeatedly said they would reject any orchestrated succession in politics and want a transition that will lead to a government by consensus, but there are no signs they will resort to violence to reach their goals. State bank employee Djamel Hadidi, 37, said, “We welcome the army’s initiative but we do not want Bouteflika’s men to govern us until the next election.”
Even if Bouteflika quits, there is no obvious replacement who could be acceptable to all.
Algerian army chief wants to declare president unfit for office
ALGIERS: Algeria’s powerful army chief said Tuesday he wanted to trigger the constitutional process that would declare President Abdelaziz Bouteflika unfit for office, after more than a month of mass protests against the ailing leader’s long rule. The Algerian army’s chief of staff is one of the country’s top power brokers, so the announcement by Gen. Ahmad Gaid Salah could pave the way for Bouteflika’s ouster after 20 years in power - or lead to a showdown with the president’s closest protectors.
The 82-year-old Bouteflika has rarely been seen in public since a 2013 stroke.
Algerian lawyer and protest leader Mustapha Bouchachi rejected the army’s move, saying the people wanted a national government of consensus, the Huffpost Maghreb said.
“The Algerian people don’t accept that the government, or a symbol of power of this system, manages the transition period,” Bouchachi said.
Gaid Salah said in remarks carried on Algerian television that “the only guarantee for political stability” is to apply the article of the Algerian Constitution that empowers the Constitutional Council to determine if the president is too ill to fully exercise his functions and to ask lawmakers to declare him unfit.
If the request receives two-thirds majority approval in Parliament, the Senate president takes charge of the government until a presidential election can be held, according to the constitutional procedure.
Some protesters have called for the application of Article 102 during massive demonstrations that have been held in Algeria every Friday since Feb. 22.
They accuse Bouteflika and his entourage of corruption, hoarding the gas-rich country’s wealth and being out of touch with the concerns of ordinary Algerians, especially struggling youth.
“In this context, it becomes necessary, even imperative, to adopt a solution to get out of the crisis which reflects the legitimate demands of the Algerian people,” Gaid Salah said in his televised address from a military base in the southern city of Ouargla.
Gaid Salah has served as Bouteflika’s public defender so his remarks came as a particular surprise.
However, another crucial figure, Constitutional Council President Tayeb Belaiz, is a close friend of Bouteflika who had served as interior minister before becoming a presidential aide.
Several opposition parties quickly reacted to the proposal, with the Rally for Culture and Democracy denouncing what it called “an attempted coup d’etat.”
“Gaid Salah is part of our misfortune. He can in no way be the solution,” party spokesman Yassine Aissiouane said in a statement. In contrast, the main moderate Islamist party, the Movement for a Peaceful Society, said the army chief’s proposal to allow the Constitutional Council to determine whether the president was fit could lead to a solution - but only if measures responding to the people’s demands were taken first.
Speeches by the army chief have been closely watched as he travels from region to region to inspect bases.
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