A senior official from Algeria‘s ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) has withdrawn his support for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika‘s proposal to hold a national dialogue conference aimed at getting the country out of the current political deadlock.
Hocine Khaldoun, FLN spokesman, told the private Dzair TV network on Sunday that the conference – which would see the participation of opposition parties and civil society actors and is aimed at reforming the constitution – will “not solve the problem”.
“Honestly, we are going to revise our position on the conference,” Khaldoun said, adding that the “conference will not solve the issue because participants will not be elected.”
“The conference will not be of any use. What we need is an elected president. If we want to win time, then we ought to establish an independent elections commission … whoever gets elected can then address the people and the movement.”
Hundreds of thousands of Algerians have been taking part in nationwide protests against Bouteflika’s re-election bid since February 22.
Amid growing pressure, Bouteflika on March 11 abandoned his plan to seek a fifth term at the helm of Algeria, a key oil producer.
But while the announcement was initially greeted with instant celebrations, the joy proved to be short-lived as the ailing 82-year-old, who suffered a debilitating stroke in 2013, stated that he would remain in office until a successor was elected.
This prompted critics to accuse the octogenarian of attempting to illegally extend his 20-year-rule.
Khaldoun later in the day told the TSA news website that he was expressing his own opinion and that he assumed full responsibility for the remarks.
“In my capacity as FLN spokesman, I gave my own personal opinion which I am going to submit to the party’s coordination committee tomorrow.”
“There’s going to be an open and democratic debate around this proposal and everyone will have to take responsibility for their position.”
Some long-time allies of the president, including the army Chief of Staff Ahmed Gaid Salah, have expressed support for the protesters, revealing cracks within a ruling elite long seen as invincible.
Newly-appointed Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui has also struggled to form a transition government, despite having reached out to more than 300 people.