Finally, Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigns and Algeria has a new leader.
After weeks of mass protests against the continued rule of ailing Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the country has succeeded in forcing the 82-year-old who has been ruling the country since 1999 to resign. Today, lawmakers have appointed the chairman of the upper house, Abdelkader Bensalah as interim president of the country.
Although the protesters have got their wish in Abdelaziz Bouteflika resignation, there are claims that they do not want Abdelkader Bensalah either. They are demanding a new face and believe that Bensalah, who is a very close associate of Bouteflika and member of the inner circle of the former president has very little to offer the country as regards reforms and dividend of democracy.
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.
The appointment of Abdelkader Bensalah is in line with the country’s constitution but the protesters are against his appointment.
Shortly after the announcement in parliament, hundreds of mostly students protested in central Algiers, some chanting “Bensalah go”.
“We must work to allow the Algerian people to elect their president as soon as possible,” Bensalah told parliament.
Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General 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.
Who is Abdelkader Bensalah?
Abdelkader Bensalah was officially born on 24 November 1941 in Felaoussene, close to Tlemcen (French Algeria). He also has Moroccan origins. After working in Beirut to direct the Algerian Center for Information and Culture from 1970-1974, he returned to Algeria to work as a journalist at the state newspaper El Chaâb for three years, before being elected to represent the province of Tlemcen in 1977. Twelve years later, he was appointed Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, a position he held until 1993.
As a member of the centrist Democratic National Rally (RND), he was President of the National Transitional Council from 1994 to 1997 and of the People’s National Assembly from 1997 to 2002.
Since July 2002, he has served as President of the Council of the Nation, the upper house of parliament. He replaced Abdelaziz Bouteflika for some presidential duties, like welcoming foreign leaders to Algeria, during the last part of the former President’s tenure. He was a strong ally of the latter, supporting his fifth candidacy even during the 2019 Algerian protests.
As provided for under Article 102 of the Algerian Constitution, he will become acting President of the country following the resignation of Abdelaziz Bouteflika on 2 April 2019. His term can last for a maximum of 90 days while the next Algerian presidential election is held. By law, he cannot participate in this election.