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Algeria: Army Chief Sets Date for Presidential Elections, Causes Political Controversy

Algeria: Army Chief Sets Date for Presidential Elections, Causes Political Controversy

Wednesday, 4 September, 2019 - 07:15
An Algerian woman wearing a scarf in the national colours holds up a sign reading in French "we are one Algerian people" on Friday (AFP Photo)

Movement of Society for Peace, the largest opposition Islamist party in Algeria, said it would announce its position on the presidential elections when the “electoral commission is officially called.”

The Movement’s statement is an implication that the deadline should be set by the president, and not by the army chief, who created controversy after calling for presidential elections at the end of this year.

On Monday, the army chief Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah announced the electoral commission “should issue a call on September 15”, meaning the presidential elections will be held 90 days after that, according to Algeria's constitution.

The statement noted that the real challenge that hinders any political process, establishes corruption and creates gangs, is the impartiality of elections and lack of neutrality of state institutions in political competition.

The real democratic transformation can only be achieved by real political will, the Islamic Party said in a statement after its leadership meeting on Tuesday.

The party, chaired by Abderrazak Makri, stated some indicators cause many fears in terms of freedoms and democracy, including media control, restrictions on the establishment of associations and opposing parties, and attempts to whitewash state parties.

Makri added that Algeria will face great economic difficulties, and the only way out of all the crises will be through serious and responsible dialogue and consensus ensuring public freedoms. He warned that any attempts to circumvent the real public desire will threaten the country’s stability.

Speaker of National People's Assembly Slimane Chenine announced his support for the army’s call for the electoral committee on September 15 and the subsequent call for polls on December 12.

Chenine said that the electoral committee, affiliated with the authority, took important steps in the right direction.

The commission faces widespread popular rejection because of its involvement in the authority’s plan of organizing presidential elections, an option the popular movement strongly rejects.

The Speaker noted that the weekly demonstrations against the regime carry messages that should receive attention and practical responses, asserting there is no substitute for elections.

He praised the army which “was able to maintain the centrality of our state in the region”, which contributed to increasing international respect for Algeria.

Professor of Political Sociology Lahouari Addi described Gaid’s call for the commission as “sudden and unrealistic.”

Addi believes the General Staff will be restructured by mid-October to create conditions that would find a path to get out of the crisis in a way that is acceptable by the people.

The political conditions for holding elections are not available, Addi said, adding that no serious candidate will participate as thousands of people protest every Friday. The professor also explained that it will not be possible to hold electoral rallies, even if campaigns were held, because citizens will prevent polling stations from opening on election day.

He stated that the police’s request for army’s aid will not help them secure thousands of polling stations.

“There will be no elections and there cannot be any,” concluded Addi.

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