Algeria’s army chief of staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah on Sunday said the army would not back any candidate in a presidential election set for December to choose a replacement for Abdelaziz Bouteflika, reported Reuters. Earlier this month, interim president Abdelkader Bensalah scheduled a December 12 date for the elections.
Months of mass protests since February this year forced Bouteflika to step down after 20 years in power, leaving the army as the main ruler in Algerian politics. The protests were initially against Bouteflika’s plans to seek a fifth term in office, but later demanded the removal of all remnants of a secretive political and military establishment that has dominated the country for decades.
“We affirm that only the people will pick the next president through ballot boxes, and the army will not support anyone,” an official statement released by the country’s defense ministry quoted army chief Salah as saying.
He said some officials from Bouteflika’s governance era were trying to sever the upcoming presidential election by spreading a false propaganda that the military would support one of the candidates running for president.
“The gang and its acolytes try to spread the idea that the army will support one of the candidates for the next presidential election,” Salah said. “This is a propaganda and its purpose is to disrupt the election.”
Regarding last week’s sentencing of former president Bouteflika’s brother, Said Bouteflika, and ex-intelligence officers Mohamed Mediene and Bachir Tartag, Salah said the sentence given to the three accused is “just punishment”. The three were charged for conspiring against the army and the authority of the state.
“The just punishment handed down to certain elements of the gang … [amount to] realising an urgent and legitimate claim of the people,” he said.
The Algerian authorities have detained several other senior officials, including two former prime ministers and 11 ex-ministers, and many prominent businessmen close to Bouteflika in wake of the mass protests demanding the departure of Bouteflika’s close aides.