Ex-PM’s party urges Algeria’s Bouteflika to step down

By Abdelrazzaq Abdullah

ALGIERS (AA) – The second-largest political party in Algeria’s governing coalition on Wednesday called on 82-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down with a view to facilitating the smooth transfer of power.

In a statement, the National Democratic Rally (RND) led by former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia — who recently resigned amid continuing protests against Bouteflika’s rule — urged the aging leader to step down in line with Article 102 of Algeria’s constitution.

Bouteflika’s resignation, the party asserted, would “serve to facilitate the rotation of power within a constitutional framework”.

The RND also called for the “swift” formation of a new cabinet, which newly-appointed Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui has been tasked with drawing up.

Opposition parties and groups, however, say the moves don’t go far enough and continue to demand Bouteflika’s immediate departure.

On Tuesday, army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah called for the activation of Article 102 with a view to having Bouteflika deemed unfit for office.

Article 102 states that, in the event of the president’s incapacitation, the parliament speaker should assume executive authority for a 90-day period while fresh presidential elections are held.

The interim president (i.e., parliament speaker), however, cannot contest the poll, according to the constitutional article.

Reacting to Salah’s appeal, the Movement of Society for Peace, Algeria’s largest Islamic party, called for the speedy formation of a “consensus government” and an independent committee to oversee presidential polls.

It also called for the appointment of an interim prime minister, the formation of an independent electoral committee, and the amendment of the country’s electoral laws.

The party went on to urge the public to continue staging peaceful anti-Bouteflika demonstrations “to ensure the people’s demands for reform are met”.

On March 11, after weeks of demonstrations against his plan to run for a fifth term in office, Bouteflika abruptly postponed polls originally slated for April 18.

Since then, Algerians across the country have continued to demonstrate against Bouteflika, who they accuse of unconstitutionally extending his fourth term in office.

In February, Algeria’s ruling National Liberation Front nominated Bouteflika, who has ruled Algeria since 1999, to run for a fifth presidential term.

Opposition figures had repeatedly urged the elderly leader — who in 2013 was treated for a blood clot in the brain — to refrain from contesting the poll.

* Writing by Mahmoud Barakat