Algeria army chief urges protesters to accept July poll

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Algeria’s army chief on Monday urged demonstrators to accept presidential polls set for July 4 to elect a successor to ousted president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Protest leaders say the North African country’s existing institutions — and personalities — are too tarnished by corruption to guarantee a legitimate vote, but the military has insisted the election go ahead as required by the constitution.

“Holding a presidential election could help (Algeria) avoid falling into the trap of a constitutional void, with its accompanying dangers and unwelcome consequences,” General Ahmed Gaid Salah said in a speech, the text of which was seen by AFP.

Emphasising “the need to accelerate the establishment of an independent body to organise and oversee the elections”, he said holding the poll would “stop those who are trying to prolong this crisis”.

Massive street protests broke out in February after Bouteflika announced his intention to seek a fifth term, extending his two decades in power.

As pressure mounted and even longtime loyalists — including Gaid Salah — called for his departure, Bouteflika quit in early April.

But demonstrators have continued to rally in Algiers and across the country, demanding that transitional bodies be set up ahead of any election.

They also want the departure of figures close to Bouteflika including interim president Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui.

The army, a key powerbroker, has insisted the July 4 poll must go ahead and any change to the constitution would be up to a future president.