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Algerian parliament elects head of Islamist coalition as speaker

Slimane Chenine's appointment follows calls from protesters for officials from Abdelaziz Bouteflika era to be replaced
Newly elected speaker of Algeria's parliament, Slimane Chenine (C) arrives to deliver a speech late on 10 July 2019 in Algiers (AFP)

Algerian lawmakers have elected an opposition figure as speaker of parliament after demands from protesters to replace figures associated with the government of former longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Slimane Chenine is a member of parliament for the Movement of National Construction party and leader of a coalition of three small Islamist parties which holds 15 out of a total of 462 seats in parliament. 

The parliament is currently dominated by members of the former ruling party, the National Liberation Front (FLN) and its allies.

Chenine, 47, has replaced FLN MP Moad Bouchareb, who resigned last week under pressure from protesters who had been calling for his departure since Bouteflika stepped down in April.

“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.

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets on Friday in the capital Algiers to reiterate their call for the country's ruling military and Bouteflika-era political elite to cede power.

The protest, which coincided with Algeria's Independence Day, marked the 20th consecutive week that Algerians have gathered to demand a complete overhaul of the country's political system.

They also demanded the resignation of interim president Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui.

The protesters also called for the departure of military chief Ahmed Gaid Salah, who has emerged as a leader since Bouteflika's resignation.

Salah has vowed to help prosecute officials suspected of involvement in corruption and has repeatedly insisted that elections are the best way forward for Algeria.

But authorities have postponed a vote initially planned for 4 July, citing lack of candidates, and no new date has been scheduled yet.

On Sunday, the former head of FLN, Djamel Ould Abbes, was placed in preventative detention by the Supreme Court's investigating magistrate on charges of "squandering public funds, procuring a contract in violation of... regulations, abuse of office and forgery of public documents".

Several other prominent politicians and businessmen linked to the old government have been detained or questioned in connection with corruption since April.