Cyprus Mail
Africa

Algerian army chief asks for presidency to be vacated

Students wearing traditional clothes hold banners and shout slogans during a protest calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit, in Algiers

Algeria’s army chief Ahmed Gaed Salah asked on Tuesday for the presidency to be vacated as he deems popular demands to be valid after a month of mass protests against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, state media said.
Based on Article 52 of the Algerian constitution, the chairman of parliament’s upper house, Abdelkader Bensalah, would serve as caretaker president for at least 45 days.
The article applies under certain conditions, such as deteriorating health. Bouteflika, 82, has rarely appeared in public since suffering a stroke in 2013.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been protesting for nearly five weeks calling on Bouteflika to step down after 20 years in power.
Bouteflika, among the veterans of the 1954-62 war of independence against France who continue to dominate Algeria, earlier this month bowed to protesters by reversing a decision to seek another term and putting off elections that had been set for April. But he stopped short of quitting as head of state and said he would stay on until a new constitution is adopted, effectively extending his current term.
His new stance failed to placate hundreds of thousands of Algerians who have taken to the streets for nearly five weeks to demand that Bouteflika step down.
“The system must go. There is no point for it in resisting,” said Belkacem Abidi, 25, one of about 6,000 protesters, mostly students, who gathered in downtown Algiers on Tuesday.
Even if Bouteflika is pushed out, Algerians could face uncertainty for some time before a new president emerges to head the vast North African country, a major oil and gas producer.
One of the most important factors is the position of the powerful military, which could act as kingmaker, as it has done in past decades.
Any direct action to help Algerians oust him could be perceived as a military coup by an institution which prefers to manipulate politics from behind the scenes.
Some important partners such as members of his ruling party and business tycoons have abandoned Bouteflika, deepening his isolation.
“I’m optimistic that our pressure will change things peacefully,” said architect Noureddine Bahi, 52.

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