Algeria: “What We Need Is An Elected President”

Algerians march during a protest in Algiers, Algeria,
Algerians march during a protest in Algiers, Algeria. Sidali Djarboub/AP

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s own party is rejecting his plans for a national conference aimed at quelling mass protests against his leadership.

The 82-year-old Bouteflika, has barely been seen in public since a 2013 stroke.

Hundreds of thousands of Algerians have been taking part in nationwide protests against Bouteflika’s re-election bid since February 22.

As the largely peaceful demonstrations have gained momentum, Algerians have made wide-ranging demands for jobs, an end to corruption and a completely new government. Maher Mezahi, a freelance journalist in Algiers, says protesters don’t trust the current regime to oversee the transitional government.

“It’s time to pass the mantle on to the younger generation.”

On 11 March, Bouteflika withdrew his application to run for a fifth presidential term, postponed elections and announced holding a national conference to lay down a new constitution before carrying out early presidential elections. While the announcement was initially greeted with instant celebrations, the joy proved to be short-lived when Bouteflika stated that he would remain in office until a successor was elected.

The opposition rejected Bouteflika’s proposals and called for him to step down.

Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, recently appointed by Bouteflika, said that a transitional government would be in place next week but has struggled to form a transition government, despite having reached out to more than 300 people.

“We have understood the message from Algerian youth in the protests,” Bedoui is quoted as saying by The Associated Press. “We will from now on commit ourselves to responding.”

Some long-time allies of the president, including the army Chief of Staff Ahmed Gaid Salah, have expressed support for the protesters, revealing cracks within a ruling elite long seen as invincible.

Algeria’s ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) has withdrawn its support for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s proposal to hold a national dialogue conference aimed at getting the country out of the current political deadlock.

On Sunday, FLN spokesman Hocine Khaldoun said “we are going to revise our position on the conference. The conference will not solve the issue because participants will not be elected. What we need is an elected president.”

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