Algeria: Controversy Over Proposed Exit For President

The proposal on March 26, 2019 by Army Chief Ahmed Gaïd Salah has met with scepticism from the political class.

There is no end in sight for Algeria’s political crisis that has seen massive demonstrations across the country since February 22, 2019 when people took to the streets demanding that ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 82, should not stand for a fifth term of office next month. Later, protesters upped their game, asking for his immediate resignation. On March 26, 2019,

Deputy Defence Minister and Army Chief, Gen. Ahmed Gaïd Salah, asked that Article 102 of the Constitution be used to get the Head of State to leave office because of his failing health, agency reports said. Gen. Gaid Salah, one of the top power brokers in the regime, who had until recently been loyal to the President, threw his weight behind what he called the “legitimate demands” of the demonstrators in a speech broadcast continuously on Algerian television.

He said Abdelaziz Bouteflika be deemed unfit to rule, appearing to pave the way for an end to his 20-year rule. But the offer has met with scepticism as observers argue that if acted upon, the President will be replaced by the Speaker of Parliament and elections held in four months’ time, with the current political system remaining in place. Secondly, there is fear that the army wants to “hijack” the protest movement and continue to remain in power after Bouteflika’s eventual departure. Barrister Mostefa Bouchachi, former head of Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights, warned of the danger of opting for the resignation of the President under Article 102.

He said the same set of officials being contested by the crowds now will remain in power, manage the transition, and organise and announce election results. Bou chachi described Gen. Gaïd Salah’s proposal as an attempt “to abort the peaceful revolution.” A few weeks back, Bouteflika offered not to run for a fifth term next month when his tenure ends.

He appointed a new prime minister and deputy, and tasked them with forming a new government of “technocrats.” The President also promised a national conference, new constitution and fresh elec tions, but promised to stay on during the transition period until new elections are held. Not satisfied, street demonstrations intensified, this time asking for Bouteflika to resign immediately.

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