Algeria’s interim president was quickly rejected by thousands of protesters on Tuesday after he was named by parliament to take charge during a volatile transition period after decades of autocratic rule.
Replacing long-serving leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who resigned last week, Abdelkader Bensalah is seen by protesters part of an ailing and out-of-touch ruling caste that has dominated since independence from France in 1962.
A long-time Bouteflika ally, Bensalah has been re-elected as leader of the upper house since the early 2000s. “Appointing Bensalah will fuel anger and it could radicalise the protesters,” said taxi driver Hassen Rahmine as crowds gathered in central Algiers.
At one point, police briefly turned water cannon to disperse protesters.
Mass protests have led to the disintegration of what has been described as the ruling elite’s “fortress” – veterans of the war of independence against France, ruling party figures, businessmen, the army and labour unions.
But Algerians have been pushing for more radical change since Bouteflika’s allies abandoned him in the weeks leading up to his resignation last week.
They are unwilling to compromise in their demand for a new generation of leaders in the North African country, which has failed to create jobs and improve living standards despite vast oil and natural gas resources.
“You go means you go,” read banners at the protest in central Algiers, which ended in the late afternoon.