Algeria: the (legal) military coup dethrones Bouteflika


By Souad Sbai

The official mistrust of the army in Bouteflika opens a new phase in the Algerian crisis. Relying on the activation of the constitutional impeachment procedure provided for in article 192, General Salah dismissed the president. A transition period starts and it will probably end with the election of a new president. The military wants to manage the transition process but the street protests against the old nationalist and military oligarchy will hardly accept this compromise solution. The Muslim Brotherhood can enter the game, especially if they are co-opted by the military to quell the protests.

People’s unyielding determination to demand change has pragmatically convinced the military – an architrave of the Algerian authoritarian system – to take advantage of the opportunity to abandon the eighty-two-year-old President.

By calling for the activation of the constitutional impeachment procedure provided for in article 192, the Chief of Staff and Deputy Minister of Defense, Ahmed Gaïd Salah, seems to want to guarantee that the military does not intend to carry out new coups and to demonstrate that his objective is to guarantee “the satisfaction of the legitimate claims made by the Algerian people, with full respect for the Constitution”. Article 192 establishes that if the two branches of Parliament (House and Senate), on the proposal of the Constitutional Council, declare President’s state of impeachment by a two-thirds majority due to the inability to perform the role, his functions can be assumed by the President of the Senate, Abdelkader Bensalah, for 45 days. If, at the end of this period, the impeachment is still in force, Presidency’s holidays can be considered official and within 90 days, new elections must be compulsorily organized.

The Constitutional Council immediately translated Salah’s request into concrete acts and now the word is up to the Parliament, where the political forces will have to find an agreement that will most probably also includes how the elections will be conducted. The Army clearly wants to be the great mediator in this agreement, in order to the transition to post-Bouteflika does not harm their prerogatives. In short, power remains in the hands of civilians but the military continues to take the decisions of last resort to guarantee the survival of the system presided over by themselves.

The design proposed by the Chief of Staff, is a foregone design, with gatopardesca memory, aimed at changing the face of a regime that, in substance, always remains the same. A mockery of the Algerian people who want to hear about democracy and civil rights and not about a Bouteflika with another name. The desire for change that animates Algerians, especially the new generation, is very unlikely to be satisfied with a mere cosmetic surgery performed by those who hold the keys to power. Therefore, it is expected that there will be new protest Fridays that will show the population face to face with the military that now is without Bouteflika’s cover. If the political confrontation is destined to worsen, it is more necessary than ever to carry out a mediation intervention by the European Union to prevent the crisis from turning into repression. The era of the massacres of the years 96-98, during the Civil War, is not so far away, and a repetition of them should not be excluded in a highly polarized context where Algerians are not afraid to challenge the regime face to face.

Bouteflika’s Age is over, but also that of Salah, 79, and that of the military. The new generation intends to open up to the international community and to reject the reissue of the old authoritarian system with new faces. They will also reject the fundamentalism of the Muslim Brotherhood that is supported by Qatar and Turkey and whose rise to power in the presidential elections could be favored by the Army, in order to share the functional power to crush Algerians’ opposition. A new protest Friday is approaching and we will continue to support the Algerians against Bouteflika, against the military and the against Muslim Brotherhood.


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