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Algeria’s interim president Bensalah sets election for July 4

Former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika (R) and Algeria’s upper house Speaker Abdelkader Bensalah who happens to be the interim president. (PHOTO/FILE)

ALGIERS – Algeria’s newly appointed president Mr. Abdelkader Bensalah has set July 4 as the date for the country’s postponed presidential election, according to state media as reported by Aljazeera.

The announcement on Wednesday came a day after Mr. Bensalah was appointed as interim president for 90 days, replacing long-time leader Mr. Abdelaziz Bouteflika who stepped down last week in the face of mass protests against him.

Mr. Bensalah, who will not be able to run in the election, signed a decree on the vote shortly after taking the post on Tuesday, Algeria’s official news agency APS reported.

In a televised address to the nation on Tuesday, the 77-year-old pledged to deliver a free and transparent election within his tenure and said he hoped the vote would return a president committed to building a new Algeria.

Mr. Bensalah also announced plans to urgently create a “sovereign” body, with the help of the political class and civil society, to help lay down the required conditions for an “honest” process.

His appointment, however, failed to quell protesters, with thousands on Wednesday taking to the streets of the capital, Algiers, to call for a complete political overhaul.

Demonstrators have repeatedly demanded the departure of a coterie of individuals closely-linked to Bouteflika’s administration, including the so-called “three Bs”; Bensalah, Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui and Head of the Constitutional Council Tayeb Belaiz.

Algeria’s political turmoil began in late February when the 82-year-old Bouteflika announced his bid to seek a fifth term in office in an election planned for April 18.

The move triggered mass rallies against the ailing leader, which eventually forced him to backtrack and postpone the poll. But Mr. Bouteflika, who has been confined to a wheelchair since a 2013 stroke, said he would remain in office to oversee a transition that would include drafting a new constitution.

The pledges failed to appease protesters, who continued rallying en masse demanding a total political overhaul.

On April 2, after weeks of mass nationwide protests and increasing pressure from the powerful armed forces, Mr. Bouteflika announced his resignation. In accordance with Algeria’s constitution, Mr. Bensalah, the chairman of the upper house of parliament, took over as caretaker president.

Earlier on Wednesday, April 10 Algeria’s army chief of staff said the military would watch over Algeria’s preparations for presidential elections, but suggested the military does not want to intervene.

Speaking at a regional military headquarters in Oran, Lieutenant General Gaid Salah also said it was “unreasonable” to organise the transition period without “institutions”, warning that such a scenario “could compromise all that has been achieved to this day since independence” from France in 1962.

Gen. Salah also said he expects those who profited under the former president to be prosecuted.

“The judiciary has recovered its prerogative and can work freely,” he said.

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