Algeria’s army chief: elections are the only way out of current crisis

ALGIERS: Algeria’s armed forces chief said on Monday that elections were the best way to overcome the country’s political crisis and avoid a constitutional vacuum.
After two decades in power, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika quit last month under pressure from protesters and the army, but demonstrations are still pushing for political reforms and the removal of all officials belonging to the old guard.
Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaed Salah, speaking on state television on Monday also called for more speed in forming a committee to supervise the election, without mentioning a date for the vote.
A presidential election has been scheduled for July 4 but a source said on Friday it might be postponed.
Algeria has been shaken by protests, mostly by young Alegerians, demanding to end the dominance of the elite that has been in charge since independence from France in 1962.
Analysts say the army is concerned the crisis will continue at a time when instability is worsening in neighbouring Libya, where rival forces are fighting over the capital Tripoli.
On Friday, protesters gathered again in Algiers to call for the resignations of the interim president, Abdelkader Bensalah, and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, appointed by Bouteflika days before he stepped down.
Meanwhile, Algeria’s army chief on Monday urged demonstrators to accept presidential polls set for July 4 to elect a successor to ousted president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Protest leaders say the North African country’s existing institutions — and personalities — are too tarnished by corruption to guarantee a legitimate vote, but the military has insisted the election go ahead as required by the constitution.
“Holding a presidential election could help (Algeria) avoid falling into the trap of a constitutional void, with its accompanying dangers and unwelcome consequences,” General Ahmed Gaid Salah said in a speech, the text of which was seen by AFP.
Emphasising “the need to accelerate the establishment of an independent body to organise and oversee the elections”, he said holding the poll would “stop those who are trying to prolong this crisis”.
Massive street protests broke out in February after Bouteflika announced his intention to seek a fifth term, extending his two decades in power.
As pressure mounted and even longtime loyalists — including Gaid Salah — called for his departure, Bouteflika quit in early April.
But demonstrators have continued to rally in Algiers and across the country, demanding that transitional bodies be set up ahead of any election.
They also want the departure of figures close to Bouteflika including interim president Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui.
The army, a key powerbroker, has insisted the July 4 poll must go ahead and any change to the constitution would be up to a future president.
— AFP/Reuters