The Oasis Reporters
March 3, 2019
Coup hardened Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria has been forced out of office by the Country’s Army Chief, Ahmed Gaid Salah, just as the ailing 82 year old president was warming up for an unprecedented fifth term in office amid mounting pressure to step down since his decision despite rarely being seen in public after suffering a stroke in 2013.
The 82-year-old, who uses a wheelchair, said last month he would pull out of the race and postponed April elections, in moves that angered protesters who saw it as a ploy to extend his two decades in power.
The sudden resignation came in the wake of the demand by the country’s powerful army chief of staff that he be declared unfit and leave office “immediately”.
“We believe there is no more time to waste” on starting a constitutional process to declare Bouteflika unfit for office, said a statement released by Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah.
“Our decision is clear and irrevocable. We will support the people until their demands are fully and completely satisfied,” the statement added.
Bouteflika had promised to resign before 28 April when his term expires. But the impatient military demanded the immediate launch of impeachment proceedings against him.
“Any decision taken outside the constitutional framework is considered null and void,” the general said.
Without naming anyone, Gaid Salah criticised “the stubbornness, the procrastination and the deviousness of certain individuals who are trying to make the crisis last and make it more complex with the only concern being their narrow personal interests”.
He said the army’s “sole ambition” was to “protect the people from a handful of (other) people who have unduly taken over the wealth of the Algerian people”.
Gaid Salah, a long-time Bouteflika ally, last week called on the president to resign or be declared unfit to rule, becoming one of the first of his faithful supporters to abandon him, according to a NAN report.
Moroccan born Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika (born 2 March 1937 at Oujda, Morocco) is an Algerian politician who served as the fifth President of Algeria from 27 April 1999 – 2 April 2019.
As President, he presided over the end of the bloody Algerian Civil War in 2002, and he ended emergency rule in February 2011 amidst regional unrest. Prior to becoming president, he served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1963 until 1979 and as President of the United Nations General Assembly for a 1-year term from 1974.
Bouteflika resigned on 2 April 2019 after months of massive protests. With nearly 20 years in power, from 1999 until 2019, he was the longest-serving head of state of Algeria.
Bouteflika’s family was from Tlemcen, Algeria, and he spent much of his early life in Algeria. In 1957, three years into the Algerian war for independence (1954–62), Bouteflika joined the National Liberation Front (Front de Libération Nationale; FLN) in its fight against French rule. He became an officer in the National Liberation Army (Armée de Libération Nationale; ALN) in 1960. After Algerian independence in 1962, Bouteflika was appointed minister for youth, sports, and tourism, and a year later he was made foreign minister.
Bouteflika participated in the 1965 coup, led by Houari Boumedienne, that removed Algerian President Ahmed Ben Bella (1963–65) from power and installed Boumedienne. Bouteflika continued to serve as foreign minister in the new government, and, by the time of Boumedienne’s death in 1979, Bouteflika seemed well positioned to replace him in the presidency. However, the army instead appointed defense minister Chadli Bendjedid, and soon afterward Bouteflika lost his position as foreign minister. In 1981 corruption charges drove Bouteflika into self-imposed exile.
On his return to Algeria in 1987, he again became a member of the FLN. In 1999 he won the presidency, though the election was marred by claims of rigging and the subsequent withdrawal of the other candidates. As president, Bouteflika focused on rebuilding the country and strengthening Algeria’s international reputation. He also granted wide-ranging amnesty to militant Islamist groups within Algeria in an effort to resolve a long-standing civil conflict.
Bouteflika won reelection in 2004. Though his previous efforts to reduce the country’s rebel activity and its attendant violence were somewhat successful, during his second term insurgents re-formed as an arm of al-Qaeda and were responsible for a number of suicide bombings. In 2005 Bouteflika experienced health problems, leading to continued speculation about his physical well-being. Nevertheless, he was elected to a third term in 2009, made possible by a change to Algeria’s constitution, which had previously limited the president to two terms. The election, in which Bouteflika was said to have received more than 90 percent of the vote, was harshly criticized by opposition groups, who claimed the poll was marred by widespread fraud and voter intimidation.
Already limited by fragile health, Bouteflika suffered a serious stroke in April 2013 and was rarely seen in public afterward. Even so, in the election of April 2014 he sought a fourth term as president, although all his campaigning was done by allies and associates. As expected, Bouteflika won. He received more than 81 percent of the vote, but his opponents decried the results as fraudulent.
His fourth term was marked by a series of government reforms. Over the first few years, the Department of Intelligence and Security, largely viewed as a state within a state, was gradually sidelined and then scrapped and replaced with a new agency directly under the control of the presidency. In 2016 the constitution was amended with various measures that included increased freedoms and imposed term limits on the presidency. Despite the active efforts of the presidential office throughout his fourth term, Bouteflika made few public appearances, and it was unclear how much of the decision-making was his own and how much was being done by others in his name.
It was announced in February 2019 that Bouteflika would seek a fifth term—ignoring the constitution’s new two-term limit—in order to continue the reforms begun in his fourth term. The announcement sparked protests, which continued to escalate in the following weeks. On March 11, as protests showed no sign of abating, more than 1,000 judges issued a statement declaring that they would not supervise the April 2019 presidential election if Bouteflika were to run, and the military indicated that it would stand with the protesters. Later that day Bouteflika dropped his bid for reelection but announced that the election would be postponed, the government would be reshuffled, and a new constitution would be drafted. Amid continued protests and pressure from the military, however, Bouteflika resigned on April 2.
The Army chief is currently acting as president.
Algerian State News Agency