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Algeria awaits constitutional signal on Bouteflika's fate

(EBC; March 27, 2019) - Algerians waited on Wednesday for a decision by the constitutional council on whether ailing President Bouteflika is fit for office, after the top army officer called for his removal in a bid to defuse mass protests.

Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah, addressing officers in a speech broadcast on Tuesday, said the solution to the biggest political crisis since the army cancelled elections in 1992 would be the exit of the president on health grounds.

The position taken by the powerful army chief of staff was a clear signal that the president - who has rarely appeared in public since suffering a stroke in 2013 - will not survive the protests which have threatened to topple the ruling elite.

The political turmoil has highlighted growing public discontent with the allegations of corruption, nepotism and economic mismanagement that have tarnished Bouteflika’s 20-year rule.

“This is a default solution following the failure of the negotiations on the departure of the President. It moves away from the democratic transition and approaches a framed succession,” said Hasni Abidi, a Swiss-based Algerian who heads a think tank.

That approach may break a deadlock for now. Protesters are pushing for an overhaul of the powerful establishment entrenched in power since independence from France in 1962, and the old guard hopes it can put forward a candidate approved by the army.

For years, rumours have swirled about potential successors, but no single credible candidate has emerged with the backing of the military, the political and security establishment who is not at least 70.

Source: Reuters