Algerian chief of staff Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah arrives to preside over a military parade in Algiers, July 1, 2018.
Algerian chief of staff Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah arrives to preside over a military parade in Algiers, July 1, 2018.

ALGIERS - Algeria’s army chief has told political parties to keep the military out of next year's presidential election, vigorously pushing back against calls for the army to oversee a transition period.

Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah said in a speech Thursday that the army shouldn’t be part of “political distractions.” He said its loyalty is to the people and it is “above political parties.”

The spring 2019 presidential election has thrown the North African nation into a slow-burning political crisis with the prospect that ailing, 81-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika may seek a fifth term. 

Gaid Salah was responding to a call by the head of the moderate Islamist party, Abderrezak Makri, for the army to pilot a transitional period before an election.

Algeria’s army has long been considered a behind-the-scenes decision-maker.