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Pressure mounts on Bouteflika as allied party joins army calls for his resignation

Ryad Kramdi, AFP file picture | Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika arrives on a wheelchair to vote at a polling station in Algiers in the 2017 elections

Pressure mounted on Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika Wednesday as the coalition ally of his ruling party called for him to resign, a day after the army asked for the ailing leader to be declared unfit for office.

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In a statement signed by its leader, recently sacked prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia, the National Rally for Democracy (RND) said it "recommends the resignation of the president... with the aim of smoothing the period of transition".

On Tuesday, General Ahmed Gaed Salah, the army's chief of staff, said the solution to the country's political crisis was to apply Article 102 of the constitution, under which the president could be declared unable to perform his duties due to serious illness.

One of Algeria's top power brokers, the army chief said in remarks carried on local television that triggering the constitutional process was "the only guarantee for political stability".

Algeria's month of mass protests against Bouteflika rule

There have been weeks of mass protests demanding Bouteflika step down since he announced he was standing for a fifth term of office with the support of both his National Liberation Front and the RND.

Bouteflika, who has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, bowed to protesters earlier this month by reversing plans to stand in elections for a fifth term and promising reforms to make the political system more inclusive.

But the 82-year-old stopped short of quitting and said he would stay on until a new constitution is adopted, effectively extending his present term. The move further enraged Algerians, and many of Bouteflika’s allies turned against him.

In its statement, the RND said it viewed "favourably" the proposal by the chief of staff of the army, which "seeks to preserve the country from blockage". The party went on to pay "homage to Abdelaziz Bouteflika for all he has done for Algeria".

Ouyahia, the party leader, is a longtime supporter of Bouteflika and served as his prime minister three times since 2003 before being sacrificed on March 11 in a vain bid to calm the intensifying street protests. He is one of several key regime figures to have broken ranks with Bouteflika as his grip on power loosens.

'There is no way Algerian people will be pushed off the stage'

On Wednesday the head of the powerful General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA), Abdelmadjid Sidi Said, also welcomed the army chief's call to trigger the constitutional process leading to Bouteflika’s ouster.

Applying Article 102 would constitute "the legal framework capable of overcoming the political crisis facing our country", Sidi Said, who has so far been a staunch supporter of the president, was quoted as saying in a UGTA statement.

The Constitutional Council, whose head is a Bouteflika loyalist, is the only body allowed to launch a procedure to declare the president unfit for office.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, REUTERS)

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