Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 26 April 2019

Algeria's military chief calls for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to be declared unfit to rule

Protesters have for weeks been calling for the Algerian leader to be removed

Students wearing traditional clothes hold banners and shout slogans during a protest calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit, in Algiers, Algeria March 26, 2019. Reuters
Students wearing traditional clothes hold banners and shout slogans during a protest calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit, in Algiers, Algeria March 26, 2019. Reuters

Algeria's military chief has called for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to be declared unfit to rule after weeks of protests against his decision to run for a fifth term signalled an end to his 20-year rule.

Lt Gen Ahmed Salah said in a televised speech that Article 102 of the constitution allowed for the president to be declared unable to perform his duties because of serious illness.

Article 102 states that the chairman of parliament's upper house, Abdelkader Bensalah, would serve as caretaker president for at least 45 days while the country of more than 40 million people found a new leader.

The lack of an obvious candidate for long-term presidency means that Algeria will probably face uncertainty for some time.

For years, there have been rumours about possible successors to Mr Bouteflika, but no one under the age of 70 has emerged with the backing of the military and political establishments.

Rarely does the military directly intervene in the country, but as thousands have been protesting against Mr Bouteflika's rule over the past month, the army has tried to restore order.

The last time the generals stepped in was 1992, when they cancelled an election that militants were poised to win. It began a civil war that killed an estimated 200,000 people.

Algeria is a leading member of Opec and a leading gas supplier to Europe, although so far output appears unaffected by the unrest, an International Energy Agency official told Reuters on Tuesday.

Talks have been planned to oversee Algeria's political transition, draft a new constitution and determine an election date, but they have not yet begun.

Updated: March 27, 2019 08:16 AM

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