Algeria army chief demands Bouteflika be declared unfit to rule

Algeria’s army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah has asked for the presidency to be vacated, Ennahar TV reported, saying he considered the people’s demands are valid following a month of mass protests against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Based on the constitution, the upper house chairman Abdelkader Bensalah will be caretaker for at least 45 days, the Algerian TV station said.

“We must adopt a solution that helps us out of this crisis … a solution that respects and adheres to the constitution so that it’s a suitable one for all sides,” Salah said in remarks carried on Algerian television.

“This solution is stipulated in article 102 of the constitution,” he said.

The powerful army chief wants to trigger the constitutional process that would declare ailing Bouteflika unfit for office. He said in a televised speech that the solution to the ongoing political crisis is to apply Article 102 of the Algerian Constitution.

Under that article, the Constitutional Council could determine that the president is too ill to fully exercise his functions, and ask the parliament to declare him unfit.

The army chief is among the top power brokers in Algeria, and his announcement could pave the way for Bouteflika’s ouster.

The move comes a day after the country’s ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) withdrew its support for Bouteflika’s proposal to hold a national dialogue conference aimed at getting the country out of the current political deadlock.

Hundreds of thousands of Algerians have been taking part in nationwide protests against Bouteflika’s re-election bid since February 22.

Amid growing pressure, Bouteflika on March 11 abandoned his plan to seek a fifth term at the helm of Algeria, a key oil producer.

But while the announcement was initially greeted with instant celebrations, the joy proved to be short-lived as the ailing 82-year-old, who suffered a debilitating stroke in 2013, stated that he would remain in office until a successor was elected.

This prompted critics to accuse the octogenarian of attempting to illegally extend his 20-year-rule.

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