Algeria parliament elects opposition figure as chairman after protesters demand change

Newly elected speaker of Algeria's parliament, Slimane Chenine, leader of a parliamentary alliance of three small Islamist parties -- Ennhada, Adala and El Bina, deleivers a speech late on July 10, 2019 in Algiers. (AFP)
Updated 11 July 2019
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Algeria parliament elects opposition figure as chairman after protesters demand change

  • Several senior officials including former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyhia and Abdelmalek Sellal have been placed in custody for “dissipation of public funds”
  • Protesters are demanding the resignation of interim president Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, who are regarded by demonstrators as part of the old guard

ALGIERS: Algerian lawmakers late on Wednesday elected an Islamist opposition figure as chairman of parliament under pressure from mass protests demanding the departure of the ruling elite.
The parliament elected Slimane Chenine of the Movement of National Construction party to replace Moad Bouchareb from the National Liberation Front (FLN), which has ruled Algeria since independence from France in 1962.
Bouchareb resigned a week ago, three months after Abdelaziz Bouteflika quit as president, also pressurized by demonstrators seeking democratic reforms and government personnel changes.
Chenine, 47, is the youngest lawmaker to be elected as head of the National Assembly and his party has only 15 out of a total of 462 seats in parliament, where the FLN and its coalition partners have an overwhelming majority.
“We have a majority in the assembly but the party decided to contribute to the superior interest over the party’s interest,” FLN lawmakers said in a statement after a meeting with the party leader Mohamed Djemai.
“Due to the current situation in our country, we prefer Algeria over our interests,” said FLN lawmaker Abdelhamid Si Afif.
The National Liberation Front has 160 seats and has monopolized the parliament presidency for a long time with the backing of other pro-government political parties.
“We have decided to back Chenine in order to get out of the crisis and go to fair presidential elections as soon as possible,” said lawmaker Fouad Benmerabet from the Democratic National Rally (RND), the main partner of FLN.
Protesters forced Bouteflika to resign on April 2 after two decades in power, and the army is now the main player in Algeria’s politics.
Army chief of staff Lt. Gen. Ahmed Gaed Salah has repeatedly vowed to meet protesters’ demands including helping the judiciary to prosecute officials suspected of involvement in corruption.
Several senior officials including former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyhia and Abdelmalek Sellal have been placed in custody for “dissipation of public funds.”
Protesters are demanding the resignation of interim president Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, who are regarded by demonstrators as part of the old guard.
The government has postponed a presidential election previously planned for July 4, citing a lack of candidates. No new date has been set for the vote.


Iran on ‘dangerous path’: UK warns British ships to avoid Strait of Hormuz

Updated 10 min 5 sec ago
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Iran on ‘dangerous path’: UK warns British ships to avoid Strait of Hormuz

  • Iran had taken a ‘dangerous path’: British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt
  • France has expressed full solidarity with Britain

LONDON: London Saturday advised British ships to avoid the Strait of Hormuz for “an interim period” following Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker.
“We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s unacceptable actions which represent a clear challenge to international freedom of navigation,” a government spokeswoman said following an overnight meeting of the government’s COBRA emergencies committee to discuss the crisis.
“We have advised UK shipping to stay out of the area for an interim period.”
She noted comments by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt earlier that “there will be serious consequences if the situation is not resolved.”
She added that there will be further meetings over the weekend and “we remain in close contact with our international partners.”
Hunt said on Saturday that he was worried that Iran had taken a “dangerous path” after it seized a British-flagged tanker on Friday.
“Yesterday’s action in Gulf shows worrying signs Iran may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilizing behavior after Gibraltar’s LEGAL detention of oil bound for Syria,” Hunt said on Twitter.


“As I said yesterday our reaction will be considered but robust. We have been trying to find a way to resolve Grace1 issue but WILL ensure the safety of our shipping.”
Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker was allegedly due to a collision with an Iranian fishing boat, the country’s state-run IRNA news agency said Saturday.

France and Germnay have expressed solidarity with Britain and has called on Iran to release tanker.
The British navy seized Iran’s Grace 1 tanker in Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion of smuggling oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said on Friday it had seized the British-flagged Swedish-owned Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz for breaking “international maritime rules.”
Iranian authorities alleged Saturday the ship had collided with a fishing boat. It said the tanker was now at anchor off the port of Bandar Abbas with all its crew aboard. The Indian and Philippine governments said they were working to get Iran to release nationals from the two countries who were on board a British-flagged oil tanker seized by Iran in the Arabian Gulf.
India’s foreign ministry spokesman, Raveesh Kumar, said Saturday its diplomats were “in touch with the Government of Iran to secure the early release and repatriation” of the 18 Indian crew members on the Stena Impero.
Manila’s Department of Foreign Affairs also said its ambassador to Tehran was in contact with Iranian authorities to ensure the lone Filipino crew member’s safety and immediate release.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola said there have been no reports of injuries among the crew.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency has said the other crew members consisted of three Russians and a Latvian.