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Algeria announces presidential elections in July as anti-regime protests continue

Former president Bouteflika resigned last week following weeks of mass protests [AFP]

Date of publication: 10 April, 2019

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Algerians will vote for a new president on July 4, the presidency announced on Wednesday, as protesters continue to call on interim president Bensalah to resign.

Algeria will head to the polls to vote for a new president in July, the country's presidency announced on Wednesday, amid ongoing mass protests against the ruling elite following the resignation of Abdelaziz Bouteflika last week.

Many Algerians oppose the appointment of Abdelkadir Bensalah, a key ally of Bouteflika, as interim president on Tuesday.

Originally set to be held on April 18, the elections were canceleld due to popular protests that forced Bouteflika to rescind his bid to run again for office.

The elections will now take place on July 4, Bensalah’s office said.

Although 77-year-old Bensalah, the former upper house speaker of Algeria’s parliament, is barred under the constitution from running in the upcoming election, protesters are calling for his immediate resignation.

While the interim president has promised "transparent" elections and a smooth constitutional transition, for many his appointment is representative of attempts to keep uphold the regime.

Since Bouteflika announced his resignation on April 2 after losing the crucial support of Algeria's military, protesters have insisted that regime insiders be excluded from the country's political future.

"Bensalah is a leftover of the system... For the past twenty years, they've made us promises," Lahcen, a 26-year-old Algerian working in a cafe in the capital Algiers, told AFP.

"The result: they've taken everything and left the people in poverty. What we want is a free election that is really democratic."

Chants of "Go away Bensalah!" and "A free Algeria!" rang out from thousands of demonstrators gathered under police surveillance in Algiers, where anti-regime rallies have been held over the past seven weeks.

For the first time in the wave of demonstrations which have swept the country since mid-February, police fired tear gas and water cannons on Tuesday to try to disperse a protest by students in Algiers.

"What happened yesterday was a violation of our right to demonstrate," said 22-year-old journalism student Asma.

"We'll carry on every day if needed until the last of the (ruling) clan is out."

Army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah, quoted in a defence ministry statement, has also promised the military will ensure a transition  which follows "rules of transparency and integrity, and the laws of the republic".

The general also warned protesters and accused unnamed "foreign parties" of trying to "destablise" Algeria.

Decrying "slogans aimed at leading the country to a constitutional void and destroying state institutions", Salah pledged that the military would safeguard those institutions.

All eyes are now focused on the turnout on the streets on Friday, the traditional day of protests in Algeria, and whether the authorities will repeat their reaction to Tuesday's rally and adopt a tougher line against demonstrations.

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