Algerian Political, Military Leaders Haggle Over Bouteflika’s Succession

CAIRO The political situation in Algeria gets murky as Algeria’s state news agency reports President Abdelaziz Bouteflika told a constitutional body Tuesday he is resigning. Feuding political and military factions appear to be waging a behind-the-scenes tug-of-war to determine the future of the government.

Students continued to protest in the capital city, Algiers, against President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika and his government, despite the announcement that he would leave office before his term officially ends April 28.

One young man in a track suit told Arab media the apparent decision by the president is not the best way to deal with ongoing protests.

He says this is not a satisfactory response to the demands of the people and it is, in fact, an end run to circumvent their demands.

Presidential adviser Ali Bou Ghazi even told journalists that he questioned the authenticity of the statement from Bouteflika’s office.

Ghazi says he has doubts as to whether Bouteflika actually issued the statement that was made in the president’s name.

Amid the apparent confusion among Algeria’s political and military elite, it appeared clear that protesters, like this crowd heard here in the provincial town of Batna, were intent on continuing demonstrations which began almost five weeks ago.

Algerian analyst Fatah Benhammou told Al Arabiya TV it has been reported by some media outlets, including the Al Khabr newspaper, that the army favors former President Lamine Zerwal as the country’s interim head once Bouteflika steps down. Amateur video on social media purported to show Zerwal returning a few days ago to Algiers.

Amid the uncertainty over what comes next, one-time Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Benbitour speculated about the legality of the coming phase of the country’s political drama.

He says Army Chief of Staff Ahmed Gaid Salah probably senses the people will not accept parliament speaker Abdel Qader Ben Salah as the interim leader and the Constitutional Council has not responded to a request that the president be declared unfit, according to Article 102 of the constitution.

He says Army Chief of Staff Ahmed Gaid Salah probably senses the people will not accept parliament speaker Abdel Qader Ben Salah as the interim leader and the Constitutional Council has not responded to a request that the president be declared unfit, according to Article 102 of the constitution.

Benbitour said the army chief is planning to avoid the Constitutional Council entirely and “make use of Articles 107 and 108 of the constitution,” which refer to the “sovereignty of the people.”

At the same time, Algerian political leaders were questioning the legitimacy of the new government recently formed by new Prime Minister Noureddin Badawi. Tibi Rafiq of the Talayat al-Hurriyat party told Al Hurra TV that Badawi’s government was unacceptable.

Rafiq says the people oppose Badawi and alleges Badawi has been responsible for numerous acts of electoral fraud during his years as interior minister.

Malek Ben Qassem of the ruling FLN party told Al Hurra TV, however, a political plan outlined by the army is a wise solution to the current crisis.

He says the army has put forward a roadmap based on the constitution, and President Bouteflika has agreed to step down, sparing the country a political void. He says there will be a three-month period under an interim head of state, coinciding with national dialogue, followed by new elections under an independent electoral commission.

Meanwhile, Islamist leaders, whose followers appear to be participating heavily in the ongoing demonstrations, are expressing disapproval of the army’s interim plan. Abdallah Jaballah, head of the Islamist Justice and Development Party, was reported by Arab media as calling Monday’s announcement “null and void.”

Source: Voice of America