Algerians demand the military quits politics


Thousands of Algerian protesters chanted slogan demanding the army quits politics, a purge of the ruling elite, an end to corruption and the release of opposition leaders.

Demonstrations in Algiers and other cities follow a ruling by a prominent independent cleric urging people to vote in a December election backed by the army but opposed by the protest movement.

The fatwa, or Islamic legal ruling, and another two weeks ago represent the first significant comment on the political crisis by major independent clerics and may influence conservative Algerians.

The army, seen as the most powerful player in Algerian politics, maintains December’s presidential election is the only way to quell protests and end the constitutional limbo prevailing since president Abdelaziz Bouteflika stood down in April.

Demonstrators reject the election saying it could not be free or fair while Bouteflika’s allies and military leaders maintain senior positions in government.

Sheikh Lakhdar Zaoui, a well-known conservative cleric, published a fatwa on Wednesday, saying a Muslim country could not be leaderless.

“When Prophet Mohammed died, he was not buried until a successor was designated by his companions,” he said.

Another cleric, Sheikh Chemseddine Bouroubi, who has a daily television show “Please Advise Me”, said it was forbidden for Algeria to have no president.

Algeria plunged into crisis in February when protests erupted to stop Bouteflika running for a fifth term in a July election.

He resigned on April 2 and the election was postponed. Authorities meanwhile used a carrot-and-stick approach to end demonstrations, arresting Bouteflika allies on corruption charges and increasing policing at protests.

Leaderless protesters said the arrests so far are not enough demanding the rest of the ruling elite be removed including interim president Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Nouredine Bedoui.