Protesters reject Algeria’s interim president, demand change

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A student carries a placard that reads in Arabic “... my country is drowning in a sea of corruption” during a demonstration in Algiers on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (AFP)
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Algeria’s parliament appointed on Tuesday the upper house chairman Abdelkader Bensalah as interim president for the next 90 days. (AFP)
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Protesters are calling for transitional institutions to be set up to implement reforms and guarantee free elections. (Reuters)
Updated 10 April 2019
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Protesters reject Algeria’s interim president, demand change

  • It is the seventh straight week of protests in the capital
  • Abdelkader Bensalah was named as interim leader for a maximum of 90 days until a new election can be organized

ALGIERS, Algeria: Algerian protesters rejected the interim leader named Tuesday to replace former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, shouting “out with the system” as they called for the end of the political hierarchy that has led the country for two decades.

Tuesday’s student protest was timed to coincide with the parliamentary decision to name as interim president Abdelkader Bensalah, a key ally of Bouteflika and the leader of parliament’s upper chamber. Within the hour, police moved against the demonstrators, dousing them with tear gas and water cannons, and using batons to break up the crowd of thousands on a central avenue.

It was the seventh straight week of protests in the capital.

As called for by the Algerian Constitution, Bensalah was named as interim leader for a maximum of 90 days until a new election can be organized. He can’t run for the post himself. Members of the opposition abstained from Tuesday’s vote.

“I am required by national duty to take on this heavy responsibility of steering a transition that will allow the Algerian people to exercise its sovereignty,” Bensalah said.

Algeria’s powerful army chief, Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah, was due to speak later Tuesday. It was Gaid Salah’s pulling of support for Bouteflika last week that tipped the balance. The military chief of staff’s response to Tuesday’s decision is paramount to the future of the gas-rich country.

Bensalah is one of three figures appointed by Bouteflika to key posts that protesters are demanding leave, dubbing them the “three Bs.” The others are Noureddine Bedoui, appointed last month as head of government, and the head of the Constitutional Council, Tayeb Belaiz.

Bensalah, 77, has cultivated a low-key profile despite holding numerous positions over the past quarter-century. With a career as a devoted public servant, he has no political weight, and his powers as transitional leader are reduced. 

Bedoui has a starkly different profile. He was among the early promoters of a fifth mandate for the ailing Bouteflika — the trigger for the crisis. Mohamed Saidj, a political science professor, says that as interior minister Bedoui also was behind forbidding doctors and human rights organizations from protesting.

As for Belaiz, “everyone knows that he is Bouteflika’s man,” Saidj said in a recent interview. 


Algeria protesters keep up pressure on regime

Updated 33 min 13 sec ago
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Algeria protesters keep up pressure on regime

  • Police forces have been deployed throughout the city
  • People were shouting slogans including "Down with the System!" or "You ate the country, you bunch of thieves"

ALGIERS: Protesters are gathering at the main post office in Algiers, on the ninth straight Friday of demonstrations against the country's leadership.
About 3,000 people had gathered at the Grande Poste, which has been a landmark during the weeks of protests, by 10 a.m. local time.
They were shouting slogans including "Down with the System!" or "You ate the country, you bunch of thieves."
Police forces have been deployed throughout the city.
Earlier this week, interim President Abdelkader Bensalah appointed a new head of the Constitutional Council after the former chief quit under pressure from protesters.
A presidential election has been set for July 4 to choose the successor to president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who stepped down under pressure from the military's chief of staff.