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

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.


South Sudan says will host peace talks between Sudan and rebels

Updated 13 October 2019

South Sudan says will host peace talks between Sudan and rebels

  • Hamdok will meet rebel leaders from the Sudanese states of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile

JUBA: Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok will attend peace talks in the South Sudan capital Monday with rebel leaders from several Sudanese states, said official sources in Juba.
“Tomorrow’s meeting is to mark the launching of Sudan’s peace talks,” Ateny Wek Ateny, spokesman for South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, told AFP Sunday.
Hamdok, who was only appointed in August in a deal between the army and the opposition, will meet rebel leaders from the Sudanese states of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Kiir, who just a few weeks ago signed his own peace deal with rebel leader Riek Machar, offered to mediate between Sudan and the rebels back in November 2018.
This new set of talks follow a first round in September when both sides agreed on a road map for the negotiations.
This week’s meeting is intended to tackle the main issues, said Ateny.
Also attending will be Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who last week won the Nobel Peace Prize, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Their presence, said Ateny, was to give the talks more weight.
A senior Sudanese delegation arrived in Juba on Sunday.
The Sudanese delegation will meet Abdulaziz Al-Hilu, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), which is active in Bule Nile and South Kordofan states. Al-Hilu will lead the rebel delegation.
This new peace initiative comes after the fall of longtime Sudanese autocrat Omar Al-Bashir, who was toppled from power by the Sudanese military in April.
Prime Minister Hamdok has been tasked with leading Sudan back to civilian rule, but he has said he also wants to end the conflicts with the rebels.
Over the years, the rebels’ conflict with Khartoum have killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced millions to flee their homes.