General Ahmed Gaed Salah, the army's chief of staff, said Tuesday the solution to the country's political crisis was to apply Article 102 of the constitution, under which the president could be declared unable to perform his duties due to serious illness.
One of Algeria's top power brokers, the army chief said in remarks carried on local television that triggering the constitutional process was "the only guarantee for political stability".
'The solution can be found in article 102 of the constitution'
Hundreds of thousands of people have been protesting for weeks to demand an immediate end to Bouteflika's two-decade rule, many of them calling for application of Article 102.
The protesters accuse Bouteflika and his entourage of corruption, hoarding the gas-rich country's wealth and being out of touch with concerns of ordinary Algerians, especially struggling youth.
Algeria's month of mass protests against Bouteflika rule
Bouteflika, who has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, bowed to protesters earlier this month by reversing plans to stand in elections for a fifth term and promising reforms to make the political system more inclusive.
But the 82-year-old stopped short of quitting and said he would stay on until a new constitution is adopted, effectively extending his present term. The move further enraged Algerians, and many of Bouteflika’s allies turned against him.
>> Read more: From peacemaker to ailing recluse, Bouteflika’s two decades at the helm
"In this context it became necessary, even imperative, to find a solution to end the crisis that responds to the legitimate demands of the Algerian people and which quarantines the rules of the constitution," General Salah said in his address on Tuesday.
Protestors 'have won a battle, but not the war'
Algeria's powerful military had avoided direct intervention until now, patiently monitoring the unrest from the sidelines, although warning it would not tolerate chaos in the vast North African state, a major oil and natural gas exporter.
Under Article 102, Algeria's Constitutional Council could determine that the president is too ill to fully exercise his functions, and ask the parliament to declare him unfit. Based on the constitution, the chairman of the upper house of parliament would take over as caretaker for at least 45 days.
'There is no way Algerian people will be pushed off the stage'
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP, AP)