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Abdelkader Bensalah named Algeria's interim president

Ryad Kramdi / AFP | Upper house speaker Abdelkader Bensalah is pictured during a parliamentary session at the Palais des Nations in the Algerian capital Algiers on April 9, 2019

Algeria's parliament named an interim leader Tuesday to replace former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who resigned last week under pressure from a pro-democracy protest movement that won the army's backing.

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But the protesters who drove the leader out after two decades in power had demanded the ouster of the country's entire political hierarchy, including the newly named Abdelkader Bensalah, a key ally of Bouteflika and the leader of parliament's upper chamber.

Algerian students were in the streets already in a protest planned to coincide with the parliamentary gathering. Shortly after the announcement in parliament, hundreds protested in central Algiers, some chanting, “Bensalah, go.”

"They haven't heard us, we will continue to march!" others shouted.

For the first time in seven weeks police in the capital fired tear gas to try to disperse the student protesters, who were also hit with water cannon.

As called for by the Algerian constitution, Bensalah was named as interim leader for a maximum of 90 days until a new election can be organised. He cannot run for the post himself. 

"I am required by national duty to take on this heavy responsibility of steering a transition that will allow the Algerian people to exercise its sovereignty," Bensalah said.

>> Bouteflika loyalist Abdelkader Bensalah, Algeria’s next in line

Bensalah pledged to organise a "transparent" presidential election within 90 days as specified by the constitution.

"We – citizens, the political class and state institutions – must work to ensure the conditions, all conditions, are right for a transparent and regular presidential poll," he said in a televised address Tuesday.

Algeria's influential military said the country's people are entitled to a peaceful transition but hasn't commented on the appointment of an interim president. The defense ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that the army would work to ensure "the Algerian people's legitimate right to enjoy total tranquility for the present and the future of the country".

The military has already proved key to the country's current political transition. Once its powerful army chief, General Ahmed Gaid Salah, pulled his support for Bouteflika it tipped the balance against the former president and paved the way for his ouster.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

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