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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Algeria. Gaïd Salah Seeks To Sow Fear

by Rosa Moussaoui

Algeria. Gaïd Salah Seeks To Sow Fear

Translated Friday 19 July 2019, by Rosa Moussaoui

Published in L’Humanité on Friday, July 12, 2019

The army’s chief of staff wants to disqualify opponents of the heavily controlled presidential election scenario, referred to as enemies from within.

"A civil status, not a military one! " On Wednesday, the Chief of Staff of the Algerian army, Ahmed Gaïd Salah, castigated this slogan in martial language, considered "false", likely to feed "poisoned ideas". On Thursday, the slogan was taken up by lawyers marching through the streets of Algiers demanding free justice and the release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, after the announcement of the continued detention of the Amazigh flag bearers and of Lakhdar Bouregaâ, 86, a veteran of the war of independence imprisoned on 30 June for criticising the government and its schemes.

Photo: Reuters

Strong opposition to a democratic transition

Having become one of the main targets of the demonstrators, who are demanding his departure, and the departure of the interim president, Abdelkader Bensalah, and of the prime minister, Noureddine Bedoui, the old general has resumed the threatening tone he used, before the fall of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, against those who opposed the fifth term, accused of wanting to "destabilize the country".

Firmly opposed to the scenario of a democratic transition, he once again defended the scenario of a presidential election in the near future, within an institutional framework still controlled by the system. The opponents of this choice, he warned, by mobilizing his usual rhetoric of the enemy from within, are "traitors who have sold their souls", puppets "in the hands of hostile circles" to Algeria, whose "justice will deal with them sooner or later". In its July editorial, El Djeich, the army publication, takes this line, albeit in less acrimonious terms: the opening of a transition period would be an "adventurous choice"; the only way to overcome the crisis would be to "rely on the polls to elect a President of the Republic".

Role sharing? This new stiffening of the army’s high command is taking place at a time when offers of "dialogue" to get the country out of the political impasse have multiplied in recent days, between public conclaves and manoeuvres from the shadows. A key man in Aïn Benian’s initiative to bring together, on July 6, an "opposition" to the regime’s electoral agenda, former Prime Minister Ali Benflis sees the next presidential term as "a full and complete transition mandate". "It is in this context that the natural place of the democratic transition, the new Constitution and the overall objective of challenging political regimes lies," he argues in an article published in the daily El Watan. Shaken by a massive and long-term popular protest, the system, in an attempt to retrain itself, is playing both sides of the coin: it makes compromises, but maintains a climate of fear; it makes heads fall in its own ranks, promises to eradicate corruption but still allows notorious thieves to run; it blows on the embers of regionalism while claiming to be the sole guarantor of national unity; it hunts down democrats and raises an Islamist deputy to the perch of the National Assembly. General Gaïd Salah pretended to curry "those who bargain for the future of the country". Deaf to the popular demands of democracy, justice and freedom, this former pillar of the Bouteflika clan now seems ready to push Algeria along gloomy paths.

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