Protesters are seeing Bouteflika’s resignation as half their mission completed, and now they are expressing concerns over the newly-appointed government.
Rabat – Algeria is marking the seventh week of protests on Friday despite the resignation this week of former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who faced backlash after announcing his intention to run for a fifth term and later to extend his fourth term and postpone the election.
Facebook posts showed protesters carrying Amazigh (Berber), Algerian, and even Palestinian flags, demanding full victory over the political system.
Algerian demonstrators chanted in Arabic: “Leave means leave;” This is our country and we should impose our opinion;” “You robbed the country, you thieves;” and “One hero, the people.”
On Wednesday, April 3, the government’s Constitutional Council confirmed Bouteflika’s resignation.
Bouteflika’s resignation Tuesday followed nearly six weeks of mass protests throughout the country.
The official Algerian news agency APS reported on Wednesday that the president of the Constitutional Council, Tayeb Belaiz, chaired a meeting in accordance with the Constitution’s Article 102. According to the news outlet, the article provides that “in the event of the resignation or death of the President of the Republic, the Constitutional Council shall meet and confirm the final vacancy of the presidency [office].”
Who’s running now?
The article also stipulates that the president of the Council of the Nation, the Parliament’s upper house, shall “assume the functions of the head of state for 90 days maximum during which presidential elections shall be held and the head of state appointed.”
As head of the upper house, Abdelkader Bensalah will take over as an interim president.
While observers were concerned about what might happen after the resignation of Bouteflika, some politicians argued that Bensalah could not serve as an interim president.
The head of Algeria’s Justice and Development Front Party, Lakhdar Benkhellaf, emphasized that Bensalah cannot replace Bouteflika until elections as an interim because he was once Moroccan.
Benkhellaf said that Bensalah has a “problem with his nationality of origin. The condition for a [leader] occupying the post of President of the Republic, is that he must have the Algerian nationality of origin. And he had another nationality until 1964 during which he had obtained Algerian nationality.”
Military still in politics
On Sunday, Bouteflika appointed a new government one day before his resignation on Tuesday. The new government is still in charge under the leadership of the interim president. Despite the Constitution’s text, which stipulates that the army should stay out of the government, the top army chief Gaid Salah has been re-appointed as deputy defense minister.
Gaid Salah, a loyalist to Bouteflika, turned on the former president last week by demanding Bouteflika be called unfit for office in accordance with Article 102, leaving people scratching their heads.
Salah also argued that Bouteflika should resign and meet the demands of the people.
Critics and journalists expressed shock over Salah’s statements. Algerian journalist Hafid Derradji shared concerns on his Facebook, questioning Salah’s position to make such statements.
For Derradji, Salah should not have a say because he had resigned after Bouteflika’s decision to not run for a fifth term. But when Bouteflika made his major reshuffle this week before resignation, Salah regained his post as deputy defense minister.
The protests, which started on February 22, demanded complete reforms in the government, calling on those in power to step aside with slogans such as “Leave” and in French, “System degage!” or “System, get lost.”
It remains to be seen whether the current government will take control over the country or the people of Algeria will convince those in power to leave.