Skip to main content

Algeria's interim president promises elections in 90 days

Abdelkader Bensalah promises elections as demonstrators express anger towards his appointment as interim president
Algerian police have fired tear gas at thousands of students protesting in the capital (Reuters)

Algeria's interim president vowed in a televised speech to organise free elections within 90 days following weeks of protests that led to the resignation of long-time leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

"I am committed to organising elections," said Abdelkader Bensalah, the interim president.

The army was aligned with the constitution as a pathway out of the crisis, he added in his 16-minute speech.

Earlier on Tuesday, Algerian police fired tear gas at thousands of students protesting in the capital after hearing that Bensalah was appointed interim president by parliament.

It was the first time in seven weeks that authorities have resorted to such a measure to disperse student demonstrators, who have continued to rally against the political elite since ailing leader Bouteflika resigned a week ago.

The French news agency Agence France-Presse said authorities had expelled its bureau chief from the country on Tuesday.

"This decision taken under the presidency of Mr Bouteflika is unacceptable," AFP chief executive Fabrice Fries said in a statement.

"In these conditions, it is out of the question for us to immediately name a new Algiers chief."

Aymeric Vincenot, who has been AFP's Algiers bureau chief since June 2017, has seen his visa extension request turned down by Algerian officials and returned to Paris on Tuesday, an editor at the agency in Paris told the Reuters news agency.

'Fair elections'

The 82-year-old Bouteflika , rarely seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, finally stepped down after more than six weeks of protests began in February after he declared he would run for a fifth term in office. 

Algeria: Let the war of succession begin
Read More »

Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gaid Salah managed Bouteflika's exit after declaring him unfit to stay in power and expressed support for protesters, who have put up little resistance to the military.

Hours after parliament made its choice, Salah said the military will do more to ensure peace for the Algerian people, state news agency APS reported.

Bensalah said he would consult with the political class and civil society. A long-time ally of Bouteflika, he is seen by protesters as part of an ageing and out-of-touch ruling caste that has dominated since the country's independence from France in 1962.

Bensalah promised to "set a national and sovereign commission to secure fair elections" in an apparent bid to placate demonstrators demanding sweeping democratic reforms and economic opportunities.

'You go means you go'

More than one in four people under the age of 30 - some 70 percent of Algeria's population - are unemployed despite the country's vast oil wealth.

The demonstrations have led to the disintegration of what has been described by observers as the ruling elite's "fortress" - veterans of the war of independence against France, ruling party figures, businessmen, the army and labour unions.

But Algerians want more fundamental change.

"You go means you go," read banners at the protest in the capital on Tuesday, reiterating the desire of many Algerians to remove all remnants of a secretive political and military establishment that has dominated for decades.

Upon stepping down, Bouteflika vowed that elections would be held after 90 days as part of a transition to usher in what he said would be a new era.