Frustrated Algeria Army Chief Throws Down Gauntlet to Opposition

Algeria’s powerful army chief issued an ultimatum to the firebrand opposition movement and parliament backed changes to the elections law, piling pressure on protesters to support plans for a presidential vote in the OPEC member.

“You are either clearly siding with Algeria or with its enemies,” Lt. General Ahmed Gaid Salah said Thursday in televised comments. “Algeria will overcome the crisis and no one will be able to stop this.”

His remarks were soon followed by a report from the pan-Arab al-Hadath TV channel that Algeria’s parliament had approved an amendment to election laws and the establishing of a electoral commission. The proposals were fast-tracked after Salah called on Sept. 2 for preparations for a vote, opening the door to a December ballot.

Mass protests that ousted long-term President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April have showed no signs of abating, with the largely youth-led movement demanding the dismantling of the remnants of the regime and the old power-brokers known as ‘le Pouvoir.’ In an apparent bid to quash any dissent, the bill sets prison terms of between six months and three years for anyone opposing the elections commission’s decisions.

Authorities late Wednesday arrested Karim Tabbou, an activist with the Democratic and Social Union, a group that’s been calling for fully fledged civilian rule. TSA Algerie reported Tabbou is expected in court for a preliminary hearing today, without saying what he’ll be charged with.

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