Algerian army chief wants president declared unfit to lead

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
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ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Algeria’s powerful army chief said Tuesday he wants to trigger the constitutional process that would declare President Abdelaziz Bouteflika unfit for office, after more than a month of mass protests against the ailing leader’s long rule.

The Algerian army’s chief of staff is one of the country’s top power brokers, so the announcement by Ahmed Gaid Salah could pave the way for Bouteflika’s ouster after 20 years in power. The 82-year-old Bouteflika has barely been seen in public since a 2013 stroke.

Salah said in remarks carried on Algerian television that “the only guarantee for political stability” is to apply the article of the Algerian Constitution that empowers the Constitutional Council to determine if the president is too ill to fully exercise his functions and to ask lawmakers to declare him unfit.

If the request receives two-thirds majority approval in parliament, the Senate president takes charge of the government until a presidential election can be held, according to the constitutional procedure.

Protesters have called for launching the Article 102 process during massive demonstrations that have been held in Algeria every Friday since Feb. 22.

They accuse Bouteflika and his entourage of corruption, hoarding the gas-rich country’s wealth and being out of touch with concerns of ordinary Algerians, especially struggling youth.