Algerian Army Chief Wants President Declared Unfit to Lead

Algerian Army Chief of Staff Ahmed Gaid Salah, widely considered the country’s main powerbroker, told cadets during a nationally televised speech that ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika should be declared “incapacitated,” triggering article 102 of the constitution, in order to find a peaceful solution to the current political crisis.

Should the article be enacted, the head of parliament would take over as acting head of state for 45 days, before the president is officially determined to be incapacitated by the Constitutional Council, granting him a further 45 days as acting president.

Speaker Abdel Qader Ben Salah would fill the role of acting head of state.

In a dramatic move, Algeria’s army chief called on parliament to declare Bouteflika incapacitated during his nationally televised speech.

He said this is in order to find a constitutional outlet to the current crisis, which is the only way to maintain stability in the country and respond to the legitimate demands of the people, while being an acceptable solution to all concerned.

Under article 102, two-thirds of parliament must vote to declare Bouteflika, whose term officially ends on April 21, “unable to govern,” giving temporary power to the parliament speaker as “acting president” for 45 days. The Constitutional Council would then rule on the president’s inability to govern, granting a further 45 days as acting head of state to the parliament speaker. He would then organize fresh presidential elections.

Bouteflika, who recently returned from a trip for medical treatment in Geneva, indicated 10 days ago that he was calling off presidential elections, originally due to be held next month, but he would not run for a fifth term.

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of the capital Algiers and many other Algerian towns and cities to call on Bouteflika to step down and to demand major political changes during protests each Friday for the past month.

Na’aman La’our, a leader of the “Movement for a Peaceful Society” told Algerian TV the president must bow to the demands of the people:

He said that his group wants the sovereignty of the people to be the basis of all political activities and that the only way for that to be the case is if there are free and democratic elections, organized by an independent electoral commission.

Algerian political analyst Abdel Karim Tabaqaneet told Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV that by invoking article 102, “the army has chosen a political solution to the crisis that has befallen the country for the past month.

But he noted that the army also may declare a “state of emergency,” as stipulated by article 105 of the constitution, if the need arises.

Several Algerian commentators also have told Arab media it was possible that Bouteflika would “step down voluntarily,” within the next 24 to 48 hours.