Algeria army chief says 'certain parties' seeking constitutional vacuum

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Students march during an anti-government protest in Algiers, Algeria, on Tuesday. — Reuters

ALGIERS — Algeria's army chief of staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah on Tuesday accused some parties of favoring a constitutional vacuum in order to prolong the country's political crisis.

Veteran leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down as president on April 2 following two months of mass protests that demanded democratic reforms and the prosecution of people viewed by the demonstrators as corrupt.

But the demonstrations have continued, seeking the removal of the whole ruling elite that has governed the North African nation since independence from France in 1962.

"Certain parties want to enter a dark tunnel called 'constitutional vacuum'," a defense ministry statement quoted Gaed Salah as saying at a military base in the southwestern province of Bechar.

"This means the destruction of the foundations of the Algerian national state."

Protesters are also now demanding the resignation of interim president Abdelkader Bensalah, a former head of the upper house of parliament, whom they see as a close ally of Bouteflika.

The authorities have postponed a presidential election previously planned for July 4 citing a lack of candidates. No new date for the vote has been set.

The army is now the main player in Algeria's politics, and Gaed Salah has called for dialogue to prepare for elections and pave the way for a new president to start the reforms demanded by protesters.

Gaed Salah has vowed to help bring to justice people suspected of involvement in corruption cases.

A court in Algiers on Monday ordered the detention of Mourad Eulmi, head of family-owned firm SOVAC, a partner of Germany's Volkswagen AG, over suspected corruption. Eulmi has not commented on the allegations against him. VW has also not commented on the allegations against its Algerian partner.

A former head of state bank Credit Populaire d'Algerie (CPA)and four officials from the industry ministry were also placed in custody in the same case.

The supreme court last week ordered the detention of former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal as well as ex-trade minister Amara Benyounes for "dissipation of public funds and awarding illegal privileges".

Bouteflika’s youngest brother Said and two former intelligence chiefs are also in custody accused of "harming the army’s authority and plotting against state authority".

Other prominent businessmen have been jailed in Algiers pending the completion of corruption inquiries.

"When the National People's Army was working with responsibility, self-denial and disinterestedness, some people ... cunningly planned to appropriate public funds," the statement quoted Gaed Salah as saying. — Reuters


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