Algerian army chief asks for presidency to be vacated amid protests

Algeria’s powerful army chief wants to trigger the constitutional process that would declare ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika unfit for office.

After more than a month of mass protests against Bouteflika’s long rule, army chief of staff Ahmed Gaid Salah said Tuesday in remarks carried on Algerian television that “the only guarantee for political stability” is to apply Article 102 of the Algerian constitution.

Under that article, the constitutional council could determine that the president is too ill to fully exercise his functions, and ask the parliament to declare him unfit. The 82-year-old Bouteflika has barely been seen in public since a stroke in 2013.

Based on the constitution, upper house chairman Abdelkader Bensalah will be caretaker for at least 45 days, Ennahar TV station said.

The army chief is among the top power brokers in Algeria, and his announcement could pave the way for Bouteflika’s ouster.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been protesting for nearly five weeks, calling on Bouteflika to step down after 20 years in power.

Watch a protest outside the Algerian consulate in Montreal:

Huge crowds gathered outside the Algerian consulate in Montreal to protest the country’s ruling government and to stand in solidarity with people in the north African country amid what’s being called the “Algerian Spring.” 2:05

Bouteflika earlier this month bowed to protesters by reversing a decision to seek another term and putting off elections that had been set for April. But he stopped short of quitting as head of state, and said he would stay on until a new constitution is adopted, effectively extending his current term.

His new stance failed to placate hundreds of thousands of Algerians who have taken to the streets to demand that Bouteflika step down.