Algeria‘s powerful army chief of staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah has branded those who oppose the military as enemies of the country, as protesters keep demanding the removal of the ruling elite that has run the state for decades.
The army is currently the main player in Algerian politics after longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced to step down in early April in the wake of mass protests against his rule and the establishment.
Those with “grudges and animosity towards the army and its command … are undoubtedly enemies of Algeria,” a defence ministry statement on Tuesday quoted Gaid Salah as saying at a military base in the southwestern province of Bechar.
“Those who are knowingly trying to circumvent … terms of the constitution, do they realise what it means to suppress all state institutions?” he asked.
Large weekly demonstrations similar to those that led to Bouteflika’s exit have continued, with protesters demanding the fall of establishment insiders and the setting up of independent institutions.
Protesters are also now demanding the resignation of interim President Abdelkader Bensalah, a former head of the upper house of parliament, whom they see as a close ally of Bouteflika.
The authorities have postponed a presidential election previously planned for July 4 citing a lack of candidates. No new date for the vote has been set.
In the statement, Gaid Salah accused some parties of favouring a constitutional vacuum in order to extend the country’s political crisis.
He said a constitutional void would amount to “the destruction of the foundations of the Algerian national state.”
“It is unthinkable to proceed in the name of the people with the destruction of the achievements of the Algerian people, that is to say … the constitution.”
Gaid Salah has urged the judiciary to speed up the prosecution of people suspected of involvement in corruption cases.
On Monday, a court in the capital, Algiers, ordered the detention of Mourad Eulmi, head of family-owned firm SOVAC, a partner of Germany’s Volkswagen AG, over suspected corruption. Eulmi has not commented on the allegations against him. VW has also not commented on the allegations against its Algerian partner.
On June 16, former Finance Minister Karim Djoudi had appeared before the Supreme Court to face questions about corruption accusations, according to state media.
Djoudi has not been charged but is facing investigations along with other senior figures associated with Bouteflika.
His hearing came days after the same court ordered the detention of former Prime Ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, as well as former Trade Minister Amara Benyounes for “dissipation of public funds and awarding illegal privileges”.
Bouteflika’s youngest brother, Said, and two former intelligence chiefs are also in custody accused of “harming the army’s authority and plotting against state authority”.
Other prominent businessmen have been jailed in Algiers pending the completion of corruption inquiries.
“When the National People’s Army was working with responsibility, self-denial and disinterestedness, some people … cunningly planned to appropriate public funds,” the statement quoted Gaid Salah as saying.