ALGIERS – In a new day of ongoing protests, the Algerian army chief demanded the removal of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika who has been seriously ill since 2013, an official statement said Tuesday.
Ahmed Gaid Salah’s statement came amid rising popular demand that the ailing incumbent and current regime step down as hoards of protestors have been inundating the streets of Algeria for the last month.
“A solution must be adopted to ensure that the crisis is resolved and which should meet the legitimate demands of the Algerian people,” Salah was quoted as saying in a statement of the Defense Ministry.
The only viable solution, the general continued, was to work within the framework of the constitution in order to guarantee the preservation of a stable political situation.
“A solution able of reaching a consensus of all visions and the unanimous agreement of all parties as stipulated in article 102 of the Constitution,” which would declare President Bouteflika unfit to rule due to illness the General added.
Protests in the Arab country escalated after Bouteflika announced he would be seeking a fifth term.
Gaïd Salah said that although protests at this stage were peaceful, they could be exploited by ill-intentioned and hostile parties both within the country and from abroad in order to shatter the nation’s stability.
Gaïd Salah’s made the announcement during a meeting with officers and commanders of the fourth Military Region, where he oversaw a tactical exercise with live ammunition.
“The People’s National Army (ANP) will remain faithful to its commitments and will never allow anyone to destroy what the Algerian people have built,” Salah added.
Earlier on Tuesday, Lotfi Cheriet was appointed the new managing director of the state-run Public Establishment of Television (EPTV), replacing Toufik Khelladi who “will be assigned to other duties,” the Algerian Press Service said.
Cheriet was a key member of Bouteflika’s communications team during his 2009 presidential campaign.
No official comment was made of this change.
The protests against the ailing president first broke out among soccer fans at matches several months ago, before spilling onto the streets of the capital and spreading to other cities in February.
Algerian national TV, however, never broadcast the demonstrations and marches that saw thousands of Algerians, mostly students but also lawyers, judges, health workers and politicians take to the streets of the North African nation.
Meanwhile, newly appointed Prime Minister, Noureddine Bedoui – a former interior minister – and his deputy prime minister, Ramtane Lamamra, have yet to successfully form a government of national unity to stabilize the increasingly volatile political situation.
Appointed by Bouteflika on March 11, Bedoui and Lamamra have called on community groups and trade unions to work in consultation with the government, but many of these organizations have openly sided with demonstrators against the state.
Bouteflika renounced his bid for a fifth term in office on March 11 but also postponed the presidential elections scheduled for April 18, a move considered by many in Algeria as an attempt to extend his rule.
As the protests kicked off, the president traveled for what state-run media called a routine checkup in a Swiss hospital, where he stayed for weeks, returning home to Algeria on March 10.
While he was hospitalized remotely, Bouteflika’s campaign manager and the country’s transportation minister, Abdeghani Zalene, submitted the president’s name for election, a move that was later annulled following the president’s announcement not to run.
Since his return, Bouteflika has been in seclusion at Zeralda Presidential Palace on the outskirts of Algiers.
The president has rarely made public appearances since he suffered a stroke in 2013 but he managed to win his fourth term in office in the 2014 election.