Algeria is set to get a new leader that will replace the ailing 82-year Abdelaziz Bouteflika who has been in power for 20 years and was recently forced to drop his bid for a fifth term in office. This will end his two-decade rule about one month earlier than the April 28 that his current term is officially supposed to end.
The Constitutional Council of that North African country is presently holding an emergency session to approve the sack of President Bouteflika who came to power in 1999. This follows the television address by the Army Chief of Staff, Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaed Salah who declared that “we must adopt a solution that helps us out of this crisis … a solution that respects and adheres to the constitution so that it’s a suitable one for all sides…This solution is stipulated in Article 102 of the Constitution”.
Protesters mostly students have been on the streets nationwide since February 22 demonstrating against the leadership of President Bouteflika. Their action led to the President dropping his fifth term bid and promising reforms that will lead to delayed elections. The protest has created a political crisis in Algeria with the ruling party on Monday formally withdrawing its support for the ailing President.
President Bouteflika who survived the Arab spring had postponed the elections earlier scheduled for April 18 and said he would remain in power until a new constitution was adopted. He also appointed Noureddine Bedoui as new Prime Minister to oversee his proposed transition roadmap.
This move angered the protesters who have remained on the streets to challenge what they say effectively prolongs the President’s current term. The failure of opposition parties to agree on the way forward for the country and the refusal of over 33 trade unions to honour an invitation for a meeting with the new Prime Minister on Monday set the country on the crossroads.
The powerful Algeria Army Chief on Tuesday last week declared support for the protesters for the very first time since the mass action began last month. His call a week later for the removal of President Bouteflika from office on health grounds has broken the deadlock in the country’s political crisis.
Once the Constitutional Council rising from its emergency session rules for the removal of President Bouteflika, the country will need two-thirds majority of the parliament’s lower and upper houses to ratify the decision. This will lead to the swearing-in of the Chairman of the Upper House, Senate President Abdelkader Bensalah as Interim President for at least 45 days or a reasonable period of time for elections to be conducted.
The octogenarian President uses a wheelchair and has rarely appeared in public since suffering a stroke in 2013. Algeria is run by the allies of the President who as government officials also represent him at different public functions where his speeches are read to the people.