Algeria Swears In New President Despite Protests

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune waves during the formal swearing-in ceremony in the capital Algiers on December 19, 2019. RYAD KRAMDI / AFP

 

Former prime minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune was sworn in as the new president of protest-hit Algeria on Thursday, a week after winning a widely boycotted election.

He succeeds veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced from office in April in the face of mass demonstrations.

Tebboune must now address the grievances of the protesters, who have remained on the streets to prevent what they see as a ploy by the political elite to retain its hold on power.

The 74-year-old is seen as close to the armed forces chief, Ahmed Gaid Salah, who has been the North African country’s effective ruler since Bouteflika quit.

He and other top brass attended the swearing-in ceremony alongside Tebboune’s defeated rivals for the presidency.

While Tebboune’s period as prime minister ended with his sacking by Bouteflika, protesters see the longtime regime insider as part of the same corrupt system that has ruled Algeria since independence in 1962 — a system they want dismantled.

Following his election, Tebboune vowed to “extend my hand to the Hirak (protest movement) for a dialogue”, appoint young ministers and push for a new constitution.

Demonstrators responded by hitting the streets once again, calling Tebboune “illegitimate”.

The country’s grinding political crisis may be exacerbated by its economic situation.

Algeria is heavily dependent on oil exports and its budget has been hard hit by low crude prices, which could force Tebboune to take unpopular decisions.

 

AFP

Algerians Protest Against Newly Elected President

People gather for a mass anti-government demonstration in the centre of the Algerian capital Algiers on December 17, 2019. RYAD KRAMDI / AFP

 

Students, teachers and other demonstrators rallied in their thousands in Algeria’s capital Tuesday against the newly elected president, rejecting his offer of dialogue with a months-old protest movement.

Abdelmadjid Tebboune won 58.1 percent of the vote in Thursday’s election, according to official results, and on Friday said he was ready for talks to “build a new Algeria”.

But protesters, long opposed to an election they saw as a ploy by the establishment to consolidate power after ailing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned under popular pressure in April, remained defiant.

Shouts of “The election was fixed! It wasn’t legitimate! The march will continue!” filled the air in Algiers during the first weekly rally since the poll, an AFP journalist said.

Security forces were heavily deployed, but there were no confrontations between them and demonstrators.

“Tebboune will not govern us!” protesters shouted, vowing to keep the poll winner from taking up residence at the presidential palace.

He is set to be sworn in during a ceremony in Algiers on Thursday, the presidency said.

The protest movement has rocked Algeria since February, initially demanding Bouteflika step down then pushing for the remnants of his regime to make way for new, independent institutions.

Turnout in the election was 39.9 percent, according to the constitutional council.

All five candidates had links to Bouteflika, who ruled for two decades despite suffering a debilitating stroke in 2013.

Tebboune is also seen as close to army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah, who became the country’s de facto strongman following Bouteflika’s departure.

 

AFP

Former Prime Minister Wins ‘Unpopular’ Algeria Election

In this file photo taken on November 24, 2019 Algerian presidential candidate Abdelmadjid Tebboune attends a forum at the headquarters of al-Hiwar newspaper in the capital Algiers. RYAD KRAMDI / AFP

 

A former Algerian prime minister who served under deposed leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika was elected president of the protest-wracked country after a vote marred by unrest and low turnout, results showed Friday.

Abdelmadjid Tebboune, 74, took 58.15 percent of the vote, trouncing his four fellow contenders without the need for a second-round runoff, electoral commission chairman Mohamed Charfi announced.

Like him, they all served under the two-decade rule of Bouteflika, 82, who resigned in the face of mass demonstrations in April.

The deeply unpopular election had been championed by the army as a way of restoring stability after almost 10 months of street protests.

But on polling day Thursday, protesters defied a heavy police presence to hold a mass rally in the heart of the capital Algiers and smaller demonstrations in provincial cities.

All five candidates — who included another former prime minister, Ali Benflis, 75,¬†and an ex-minister, Azzedine Mihoubi — were widely rejected by protesters as “children of the regime”.

 

AFP