Algeria’s new prime minister has announced that he will form a temporary government of technocrats and others to work towards political change in response to weeks of street protests, and he urged the opposition to join in a dialogue.
Noureddine Bedoui laid out his plans at a news conference in Algiers earlier day after ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his decision not to run for a fifth term that would have extended his 20 years in power.
Prime Minister Bedoui, who replaced Ahmed Ouyahia on Monday, said the new government would be formed early next week.
“This government will have a short period, and its role is to be the support for the national conference and what Algerians agree upon,” he said, adding that it would be technocratic but also include young Algerians involved in the protest movement, including women.
“The make-up will be one that represents all the forces and especially the youthful ones of the sons and daughters of our nation so that we can meet the aspirations that the Algerian citizen expressed,” he said.
Bedoui confirmed that an independent commission will oversee the next presidential election.
The prime minister urged the opposition to accept dialogue; yesterday the government said it was ready for talks, saying it sought a ruling system based on “the will of the people”. Yet trust in the system remains low with many perceiving Bouteflika’s decision to delay the election as a tactic to buy time.
Mass protests are planned for tomorrow, with more than ten million people expected to take part across the country.
Demonstrations against corruption, unemployment, and the ruling class have rocked the country over the past three weeks. Algeria’s political sphere has been dominated by veterans of the country’s independence war from France in 1962. Bouteflika has ruled the country since 1999, despite promising in 2012 to step down after his third term. The president is now wheelchair-bound after suffering a stroke in 2013 and has not spoken publicly for the past five years.
In an illustration of the disconnect between the ageing Bouteflika and restless young Algerians, the president announced his transition plan in a letter to a nation where people vent frustrations through social media.
“When you read the letter closely, it is very crafty. He says ‘I’m retiring’, but the further you read on, the clearer it becomes that it’s a ruse, that he’s side-stepping and hedging,” said Kader Abderrahim, analyst at Sciences Po university in France. “It’s about extending his fourth mandate into eternity. It took Algerians only a few hours to realise what was going on and to understand what he was up to.”