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Algeria's parliament appoints close associate of Bouteflika as interim president

April 9, 2019 at 12:06 pm

Algerian students gather to protest against the fifth term of Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algiers, Algeria, on 26 February 2019 [Farouk Batiche/Anadolu Agency]

Algeria’s parliament today appointed its upper house chairman Abdelkader Bensalah as interim president following the resignation of Abdelaziz Bouteflika after weeks of mass protests against his rule.

Protesters, who are demanding sweeping democratic reforms, are opposed to figures like Bensalah, a close associate of Bouteflika and his inner circle who dominated Algeria for decades.

Upon stepping down last week, Bouteflika promised that elections would be held after 90 days as part of a transition he said would usher in a new era.

As per the Algerian constitution, Bensalah will remain interim president until new elections are held.

“We must work to allow the Algerian people elect their president as soon as possible,” Bensalah told parliament.

The Movement of Society for Peace, Algeria’s largest Islamic party, boycotted today’s parliament session.

“Attending the session would be an automatic recognition of Bensalah as head of state, which is contrary to the people’s demands clearly expressed in the popular movement,” the movement said yesterday.

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Algeria’s ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned last week, succumbing to six weeks of largely peaceful mass protests driven by youth and pressure from the powerful army against his 20-year rule, Reuters reports.

Hundreds took to the streets of the capital after state media announced the 82-year-old’s departure, capping a wave of protests demanding the removal of an ageing elite seen by many as out of touch with ordinary people and presiding over an economy driven by cronyism.

Bouteflika’s supporters had sought to stop the dissent by telling Algerians not to return to the dark days in the 90s when some 200,000 were killed in civil war, warning even of a scenario like in Syria, embroiled in an eight-year-long conflict.