Algeria’s Army Chief Backs Bensalah

Thursday, 11 April, 2019 - 07:45
Algiers – Boualem Goumrassa

Protests condemning the assignment of Abdelkader Bensalah as Algeria’s interim leader have continued as Army Chief Ahmed Gaid Salah surprised millions of demonstrators by urging them to put an end to their movement on the pretext that they were asking for impossible demands.

Contrary to what the demonstrators want, Salah also announced his support to Bensalah as head of state in the transitional period.

Speaking at a regional military headquarters in the west of the country, Salah said that this historic and decisive phase requires all the faithful, loyal and dignified people of Algeria to unite efforts.

He also noted that the upcoming transitional period requires a set of mechanisms, and its activation according to the constitution, stipulates that the President of the National Assembly, chosen by the parliament with its two chambers, must assume the position of head of state for three months with limited powers until a new president is elected.

Salah's statement can be interpreted that Bensalah’s appointment as interim president is ultimately the army's choice, and therefore, protesters’ rejection is not welcomed by the military leadership.

The Arnt Chief warned that "persistent unrealizable demands" would impact the economy and the country’s purchasing power.

The statement, published by the Defense Ministry, had serious implications, accusing France of seeking to impose a group of people, most likely from the opposition, for the transitional process instead of the institutions and officials stipulated in the constitution.

He warned that some foreign parties are promoting certain individuals to run the transition phase and manipulating protesters to destabilize the nation and “seed discord among the people... aimed at leading the country to a constitutional void.”

Salah did not name who he alleged was interfering, but referred to “certain foreign parties, considering their historic record”, a likely reference to former colonial power France.

It is unreasonable to run the transitional period without institutions that organize and supervise this process, noted Salah, warning that this could have dire consequences on the accomplishments of the revolution since the independence.

The Army Chief was referring to the ongoing demonstrations since February 22 which he believes are caused by people seeking chaos, which justifies the state of emergency and the intervention of the military.

However, observers asserted that the protests remained peaceful and Bensalah himself had previously praised the marches saying he was impressed by them.

Salah also launched a series of strange promises relating to corruption, an issue within the purview of the judiciary, specifically the prosecution. He asserted that the judicial system will work freely, without restrictions, pressures or dictations.

Once again, Salah referred to what he called the “gang that had seized control of the Algerians' fate”, in a direct reference to the former president's inner circle, including businessmen benefiting from the decades-long status quo.

Observers criticize the Army Chief for being an active member in the former regime without putting an end to what he described as the “gang.”

Meanwhile, opposition parties and figures warned against using violence against demonstrators after security forces responded to protesters with tear gas and water cannons.

But the authorities seem determined to end protests and committed to respecting the constitutional process, which ensures presidential elections within three months.

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