Army chief of staff Ahmed Gaïd Salah, de facto strongman of Algeria, welcomed on Tuesday the « popular drive » sparked by the presidential election of December 12, which all indicates, however, that it is massively rejected by the population, against the backdrop of the regime’s challenge.
The campaign that began Sunday promises to be hectic, with the five candidates facing hostile demonstrations and holding rallies under strong police protection.
In one of his regular speeches during a field visit, General Gaïd Salah, said his « great admiration and pride » for « this popular momentum that has spread across the country » with « spontaneous popular marches supporting the army (…) and the holding of the presidential ».
« All the fringes of our people, all categories combined, men, women, young people, students and old, have come out in (…) the cohesion, solidarity and the adhesion of the people around its army (…) expressing as a whole the will to go massively to the polls on December 12, « he said.
The Algerian media has reported in recent weeks some demonstrations of support for the vote across the country.
But they seem to have mobilized very little, compared to the massive processions that every week chanted their rejection of a poll that the « Hirak », the unprecedented movement of protest of the regime born in February, considers destined to regenerate a « system » political he requires dismantling.
« Real power »
« The interest of the motherland certainly means that the Algerian people are watching (…) in fulfilling their electoral duty, to show reason, » said General Gaid Salah.
He called « all the fringes of the Algerian people (…) to hold hands in hand » and to participate in the vote, « open door to the happiness and prosperity of Algeria and its people ».
The army has « no political ambition » and has « objectives » only « the good of Algeria and its people, » he repeated, but « will be on the lookout for anyone trying to wear undermining the foundations of the Nation, territorial integrity and popular unity « .
The military high command has been one of the pillars of the power apparatus in Algeria since independence in 1962 and plays a key role in extremely opaque decision-making mechanisms. Some observers even attribute to it « real power ».
Since the resignation of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, president for 20 years, under the pressure of « Hirak » in April, General Gaïd Salah has emerged as the strongman of the country, to the detriment of the effaced interim president Abdelkader Bensalah.