Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

People chant slogans and wave flags during a demonstration in Algiers, Algeria, on April 10, 2019.

The Associated Press

Algeria will hold a presidential election on July 4, the interim presidency said on Wednesday after weeks of mass protests led to the resignation of long-serving leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

No further details were immediately given. On Tuesday, interim president Abdelkader Bensalah had said he would organize free elections within 90 days.

Earlier on Wednesday, Algeria’s army chief said he expected to see members of the ruling elite in the major oil and natural gas-producing country prosecuted for corruption and that he would support a transition towards elections.

Story continues below advertisement

Lieutenant General Gaid Salah’s comments were the strongest hint yet that the military would play its traditional role as kingmaker after the ailing 82-year-old Bouteflika bowed to popular pressure and quit on April 2 after 20 years in power.

“The army will meet the people’s demands,” said Salah, addressing officers and soldiers at a military base. ”The judiciary has recovered its prerogative and can work freely.”

He referred to the ruling caste as “the gang,” a term people have used in the protests to describe Bouteflika’s inner circle, which encompassed retired intelligence officials, oligarchs, members of the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) and some veterans of the 1954-62 war of independence against France.

The army chief of staff urged the judiciary to reopen a corruption case against oil and gas giant Sonatrach, an object of resentment for many Algerians who accuse their leaders of stealing the North African nation’s wealth.

More than one in four people under the age of 30, some 70 per cent of the population, are unemployed – one of the central grievances of protesters who want the economy liberalized and diversified to reduce its reliance on energy.

In 2012, a series of scandals shook Sonatrach, which was tightly controlled by Bouteflika loyalists. Its CEO and other executives were imprisoned for graft offences.

CAUTIOUS ARMY CHIEF

The army patiently monitored the unrest, which started on Feb. 22, from the sidelines. Then Salah intervened, declaring Bouteflika – rarely seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013 – unfit to rule.

Story continues below advertisement

If Bouteflika had seen through his original plan to run for a fifth term despite growing grassroots opposition, that would have put the military under pressure to restore order, instead of focusing on swaying politics from the shadows.

“It is unreasonable to manage the transition period without institutions that organize and oversee this operation,” said Salah, lending support to interim leaders.

Algeria’s generals are highly sensitive to instability. In the early 1990s, the army cancelled an election that Islamists were poised to win, touching off a shattering civil war that killed an estimated 200,000 people.

“The army is pushing hard to get the protesters to back its plan to hold elections in 90 days, keeping the transition within the constitution framework,” independent analyst Ferrahi Farid said before the announcement of the election date.

The military has faced little resistance from protesters; rather, their fury has been directed at what is popularly described as the fortress – an FLN-associated old guard that has been entrenched for decades.

Still, some Algerians were wary after hearing Salah’s pledges. “We’re happy with the army urging the prosecution of corrupt people. But we will not give up on other demands,” said 25-year-old student Nabil Arrachi.

Story continues below advertisement

In central Algiers, the site of mass marches on successive Fridays since the unrest began, teacher Halim Hachni sat in a coffee shop contemplating his country’s future and wondering about the army’s role in it.

“From the constitutional point of view, I think the army cannot intervene directly by sacking current interim officials and naming new ones,” he said.

Ennahar TV said the interior ministry had issued licenses for 10 new political parties. While Algeria has about 15 opposition parties, they are seen as weak, and the ministry’s move appeared to be aimed at placating protesters seeking a greater degree of democracy.

Parliament on Tuesday named Bensalah, the upper house chairman for almost 20 years, as caretaker president. That move failed to placate protesters, who quickly gathered in the thousands in Algiers to demand a removal of the elite and wholesale reforms.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies