The Algerian Army Must Remain Uninvolved

Al-Khabar, Algeria, September 19

Six years have passed since the Arab Spring, and Algeria is still struggling to mend its broken political system and restore stability in the country. Algerian society is still deeply plagued by deep mistrust among its various political players, who seek to discredit and weaken one another. These tensions have been exacerbated even more in recent months, after serious concerns were raised over the health situation of the country’s current president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Bouteflika, who led Algeria since 1999, has not been seen in public for several months and televised footage of him appears to be highly edited. This led to many rumors regarding the health of the 80-year-old president, sparking a new divide within Algerian society, between those supporting the leader and those calling him to step down. There is surely a legal backing to the people’s demand to see the president go. The Algerian constitution clearly stipulates that if the country’s leader ever becomes incapacitated or unable to fulfil his duties, he or she must step down and delegate their authority to a deputy. Bouteflika, however, insists on staying in power. His proponents insist that the president is still functioning and performing his daily duties. Still, an unexpected turn of events took place in recent months, when the Algerian Armed Forces decided to side with the president’s opponents, publicly advocating for Bouteflika’s replacement. Rank and file Algerians have since looked at the Ministry of Defense with the hope of solving the growing political crisis in the country. Military generals have won the respect and admiration of the public, which now view their commanders as political elites. But this is a dangerous development. Algeria cannot afford to become a military dictatorship. The role of the Algerian Army is to protect the country’s borders and ensure the regime’s stability; not to replace the acting head of state. Algerians have worked and aspired to build a better future for themselves for many decades. What they need is a functioning democracy, not a strong military junta. Although the Algerian Army enjoys widespread popularity, the solution lays within the political system. The Army must remain uninvolved. – Tawfik Rabhi

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