Algeria’s parliament on Tuesday appointed its Upper House Chairman, Abdelkader Bensalah, as interim president following the resignation of ailing Abdelaziz Bouteflika after weeks of mass demonstrations against his rule.
His appointment is in keeping with Algeria’s constitution but protesters, who want sweeping democratic reforms, oppose figures like Bensalah, a close associate of Bouteflika and his inner circle who dominated Algeria for decades.
Shortly after the announcement in parliament, hundreds of mostly students protested in central Algiers, some chanting “Bensalah go”.
The big question is how Algeria’s powerful military – long seen as a kingmaker in Algerian politics — will react to Bensalah’s appointment and any opposition that arises.
Army Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Gaid Salah carefully managed Bouteflika’s exit, which came after six weeks of mostly peaceful demonstrations.
Salah has expressed support for protesters, who want democratic reforms after almost 60 years of monolithic rule by veterans of the 1954-62 independence war against France.
Upon stepping down, 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.
Bouteflika stepped down last week after pressure from the powerful military and nationwide protests against his 20-year rule.
His fourth term was due to end on April 28.
The parliament voted to declare the vacancy of the president’s post and appointed Bensalah, 76, to run Algeria for a 90-day transitional period, in line with the constitution.
Naming an interim president allows the country to organise elections.
But Bensalah, who cannot run in the elections, does not have the support of Algeria’s opposition parties, which boycotted Tuesday’s session in parliament.
In March, Bouteflika yielded to the demands of protesters and renounced his bid for a fifth term in office and indefinitely postponed the presidential polls, originally scheduled for April 18.
That failed to appease protesters, who saw the moves as a trick to prolong his term in office.
As protests continued, Algeria’s military joined the calls for Bouteflika’s departure, which ultimately led to his resignation on April 2.
Bouteflika had been in power since 1999.
He suffered a stroke in 2013 and has rarely been seen in public since then. (Reuters/NAN)