Powerful Algerian party abandons beleaguered Bouteflika

The National Rally for Democracy has joined ruling party officials, unions and business tycoons who have abandoned Abdelaziz Bouteflika after nearly a month of protests. (Reuters)
Updated 20 March 2019
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Powerful Algerian party abandons beleaguered Bouteflika

  • The National Rally for Democracy has joined ruling party officials, unions and business tycoons who have abandoned Abdelaziz Bouteflika
  • ‘The candidacy of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a new term was a big mistake’

ALGIERS: Algerians have expressed “noble aims,” the country’s army chief of staff said, as President Abdelaziz Bouteflika faced growing pressure from protesters to step down.
The comments by Lt. Gen. Ahmed Gaed Salah, cited by Algerian media, were the strongest indication yet that the military is distancing itself from the ailing president. 

Meanwhile an influential Algerian party that was a long-time supporter of Bouteflika has criticized the ailing president for seeking to stay in power, another setback for the ruling elite in the face of mass demonstrations.
The National Rally for Democracy (RND), a member of the ruling coalition, has joined ruling party officials, unions and business tycoons who have abandoned Bouteflika in recent days, after nearly a month of street demonstrations protests.
“The candidacy of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a new term was a big mistake,” RND spokesman Seddik Chihab told El Bilad TV.
“Extra constitutional forces have seized power in the past few years and ruled state affairs outside a legal framework.”
Bouteflika, who has ruled for 20 years, bowed to the protesters last week by reversing plans to stand for a fifth term. But he stopped short of stepping down and said he would stay in office until a new constitution is adopted, effectively extending his present term.
His moves have done nothing to halt demonstrations, which peaked on Friday with hundreds of thousands of protesters on the streets of Algiers and have continued into this week.
RND leader Ahmed Ouyahia, a former prime minister who had close ties to intelligence agencies, has also switched sides. “The people’s demands should be met as soon as possible,” he told followers in a letter on Sunday.
Leaders have emerged from the protest movement, offering an alternative to Bouteflika’s political roadmap to what he says will be a new Algeria. But they have not built up enough momentum to force the president to quit or make more concessions.
The military, which wields enormous power from behind the scenes, has remained on the sidelines.
Another powerful figure, Bouteflika’s younger brother Said, has kept a low profile. The president has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke five years ago, and the protesters say a shadowy circle of aides, including Said, have been ruling the country in his name.
The protests continued on Tuesday, with students, university professors and health workers rallying in Algiers calling for Bouteflika to quit.
A new group headed by activists and opposition figures told the army not to interfere.
In the first direct public message to the generals from leaders emerging from the protests, the National Coordination for Change said the military should “play its constitutional role without interfering in the people’s choice.”


Turkey orders arrest of 249 foreign ministry staff in post-coup probe

Updated 11 min 51 sec ago
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Turkey orders arrest of 249 foreign ministry staff in post-coup probe

  • Authorities have carried out regular operations against the alleged followers of Fethullah Gulen
  • The US-based cleric is accused of orchestrating an attempted coup in 2016

ANKARA: Turkish authorities ordered the arrest of 249 foreign ministry personnel over suspected links to the network of a US-based cleric accused of orchestrating an attempted coup in 2016, broadcaster NTV said on Monday.
Authorities have carried out regular operations against the alleged followers of Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, since the failed coup attempt on the night of July 15, 2016. Gulen denies allegations he was behind it.
The Ankara chief prosecutor’s office said it ordered the arrest of 249 members of Turkey’s foreign ministry after investigations found that they had committed irregularities in the ministry’s past entrance exams, NTV reported.
It said 78 suspects had been detained so far in operations across 43 provinces and that police were seeking the rest.
More than 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial, while some 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others have been sacked or suspended from their jobs as part of the post-coup purges.
Rights groups and Turkey’s Western allies have voiced concerns over the crackdown, saying President Tayyip Erdogan has used the abortive putsch as a pretext to quash dissent. The government has said the security measures were necessary due to the gravity of the threat Turkey faces.