Algeria’s army chief of staff said the military will ensure the country does not descend into violence, state TV reported, as mass protests that prompted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit on April 2 continue.
Bouteflika’s exit has not quieted protesters, who now demand dismantling of an entire ruling elite entrenched for decades, a shift towards more democracy and a crackdown on systemic corruption and cronyism.
Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah said ongoing marches showed there was consensus on how to exit the crisis, state TV reported. He did not elaborate and some protesters welcomed an effort by Salah to prosecute members of the ruling elite close to Bouteflika.
The army remains the most powerful institution in Algeria, having swayed politics from the shadows for decades. It has patiently monitored the mostly peaceful protests that at times swelled to thousands in number.
On Tuesday, Salah – who helped push out Bouteflika after having him declared unfit for office – said several big corruption cases would come to light in a crackdown on graft, private Ennahar TV station said.
Algeria’s ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) party endorsed Salah’s approach and called on protesters and opposition parties to pursue dialogue to end the crisis.
“We hail the army’s leadership for its harmony with the people,” newly-elected FLN leader Mohamed Djemai said in televised comments. “Dialogue is the only way to get out of this situation.”
Djemai, a 50-year-old businessman, replaced Moad Bouchared as FLN chief, which governed the North African country since independence in 1962.
Mass protests broke out on February 22 to demand the departure of the entire ruling elite, including FLN.
“We feel pain and some party members cry when we hear ‘FLN, go,” Djemai said, referring to a slogan chanted by protesters. “We ask the peoples’ forgiveness if we made mistakes.”
Hundreds of people demonstrated again in Algiers on Wednesday for more reforms, TV footage showed.