Police used water cannons to disperse anti-Bensalah protests after Parliament appointed him interim president on Tuesday.
Bensalah had reassured Algeria that the next election will be free during a televised speech on Tuesday after the Parliament appointed him interim president following President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s resignation.
The interim president was required to hold an election within 90 days, in accordance with Article 102 of the Constitution.
“The important thing is for our people to choose the person and the program that best suits their aspirations for a new political system able to meet the country’s major challenges in an Algeria wedded to modernity, democracy, to justice and development,” Bensalah said.
The interim president, a loyalist to Bouteflika, continued: “I expect everyone, a greater mobilization than the one they have shown so far, to face the multiple and urgent challenges that our country must inevitably face.”
Protesters, who have been protesting since February 22, promised to continue their demonstrations against the system with slogans such as “System degage!” or “System, get out,” “Leave means leave!” and “The people are the only hero.”
On Tuesday, protesters rallied across Algeria to contest the appointment of Bensalah. Police cracked down on protesters, using water cannons to disperse the protests.
Who is Bensalah?
The 77-year-old interim president was born in Tlemcen, near the Moroccan border. Bensalah had been the head of the upper house of Parliament since 2002, three years after Bouteflika became president in 1999.
AFP said that the president has represented Bouteflika in international and local events since Bouteflika’s stroke in 2013.
The official held several other high-ranking positions, including senator and ambassador.
Bensalah served as ambassador to Saudi Arabia 1989-1993. Following that, the politician served as the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The interim president joined the National Liberation Army (NLA) which began fighting French colonialism in 1954.
The president then secured a scholarship in 1962 to study law in Damascus, before returning to Algeria to join Al Shaab (The People) newspaper as a journalist in 1967.
After serving pro-government media, the president was elected as MP in 1977. The interim president also served as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC).
Bensalah, who received criticism for his former Moroccan nationality, also served as the head of the Transitional National Council (CNT) in 1994, before he joined the Council of the Nation in 2002, where he has been systematically re-elected every three years.
Recently a group of politicians criticized Bensalah, arguing that he should not become interim president because “he was “Moroccan.”
The president of Algeria’s Justice and Development Front Party, Lakhdar 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,” quoting the Algerian Constitution.
“He had another nationality until 1964 during which he had obtained Algerian nationality,” he added.