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Algerian army calls for presidential elections “as soon as possible”

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Algerian army chief of staff Lt. Gen. Ahmed Kayed Saleh on Monday called for presidential elections to be held “as soon as possible” and to “begin preparations for them in the next few weeks,” which the protest movement rejects.

Algerian Deputy Defense Minister Kaid Saleh is considered the country’s strongman after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down on April 2.

Saleh reiterated his rejection of the “severe transitional consequences, promoted by some parties,” referring to the February 22 protest movement demanding the overthrow of the regime and the departure of all officials loyal to the former president.

Presidential elections scheduled for 4 July could not be held because there were no candidates.

Transitional President Abdelkader Bensalah, whose term expired on 9 July and was extended by the Constitutional Council, is currently in power “until a new president is elected”.

Bin Saleh formed the National Mediation and Dialogue Commission charged with holding consultations to determine the terms of the upcoming presidential elections, which protesters refuse to be organized by the ruling authorities.

But the protest movement rejects dialogue with this body and considers that any elections held by the current authority will only lead to the maintenance of the current “regime” accused of rigging elections under Bouteflika, who ruled the country from 1999 to 2019.

In a statement published by the Ministry of Defense, Lt. Gen. Qaid Saleh said that “logic requires the preparation of the presidential elections” in the next few weeks.

He reiterated the Algerian Chief of Staff “call once again the need to expedite the installation of the National Independent Commission for the preparation, organization and monitoring of presidential elections, which is a fundamental guarantee to overcome the status quo.”

He continued that “this approach is based on the weighting of constitutional legitimacy, through the organization of transparent presidential elections as soon as possible, we have avoided all the transitional stages of the consequences.”

He praised the “efforts” of the Commission condemning the “voices known for its malicious intentions, which sold its consciences to serve the interests of the gang and the interests of its masters, which work by all available means to hinder the work of the National Commission for Mediation and Dialogue.”

Few parties close to power or belonging to the opposition accepted by the regime agreed to meet with the body, which has so far failed to convince the rest of the opposition, civil society actors, and Hirak figures.

The momentum of weekly demonstrations has been eroded by rising temperatures and a school holiday, and September will be a test of the protest movement’s ability to mobilize at a time when the crisis in Algeria appears to be deadlocked.

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