Malaysia To Ban Citizens From Travel Abroad, Foreign Arrivals – PM

This handout from Malaysia’s Department of Information taken and released on March 1, 2020 shows Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin signing documents after taking the oath as the country’s new leader at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur. FAMER ROHENI / Malaysia’s Department of Information / AFP.

 

Malaysia will ban its citizens from travelling overseas and foreigners from entering the country in drastic measures announced by the prime minister Monday aimed at curbing the spread of the deadly new coronavirus.

Schools will also be closed under the rules that will be in place for two weeks from Wednesday, Muhyiddin Yassin said.

Large gatherings will be banned while shops and places of worship will be shuttered in the country, which has 566 virus cases according to a Johns Hopkins University tally, the highest number in Southeast Asia.

Essential services such as supermarkets and banks will remain open.

“I am aware that you may feel that this action taken by the government will create difficulties in running your daily lives,” Muhyiddin said in a late-night television address.

“However, this action must be taken by the government to curb the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak which is likely to take the lives of people in this country.”

Malaysia has so far recorded no fatalities from the virus.

READ ALSO: Global Airlines Slash Almost All Flights As Coronavirus Spreads

Many of the country’s infections have been linked to a global Islamic event held last month and attended by almost 20,000 people.

Authorities said participants at the gathering from February 27 to March 1 came from Bangladesh, Brunei, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Around 14,500 of the participants were Malaysian.

The new measures bar foreigners from the country, but citizens returning to Malaysia will have to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“We can’t wait any longer until things get worse,” said Muhyiddin, who was sworn in only on March 1 after taking power without an election, and with support from a scandal-tainted party.

“We have seen some countries take drastic steps to control the spread of the outbreak like China, which has seen a significant decline in COVID-19 infection cases.”

AFP

Sudan PM Escapes Assassination

(FILES) This file photo taken on December 4, 2019 shows Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok smiling during a meeting at the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC during an official visit to the United States.  JIM WATSON / AFP

 

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok survived unharmed an assassination attempt using explosives in the capital Khartoum Monday, said his top aide.

“An explosion hit as Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s car was driving by but thank God no one was hurt,” said Ali Bakhit, his office director.

A cabinet official also confirmed to AFP that Hamdok had escaped an attack.

Images on state television showed at least two damaged vehicles at the site of the blast in the Kober district, northeast of the centre of Khartoum.

State TV reported that Hamdok’s convoy was targeted but was currently “well and has been taken to a safe place”.

The area was quickly cordoned off by the police.

State-run radio Omdurman meanwhile reported that automatic weapons were also used in the attack and that Hamdok was taken “to a hospital”.

AFP

Lesotho PM In Court Over Murder Of Estranged Wife

Prime Minister of Lesotho/ AFP

 

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane appeared in court on Monday over the murder of his estranged wife after a weekend in which he was said to be receiving emergency medical care in South Africa.

In the latest twist of a saga that has gripped the southern African kingdom, the 80-year-old premier attended the magistrate’s court in the capital Maseru, an AFP correspondent reported.

Charges had been expected to be formally read out to him for allegedly acting in “common purpose” in the June 2017 killing of 58-year old Lipolelo Thabane, whom he was in the process of divorcing.

But after a brief sitting, the matter was deferred to the High Court and the prime minister was not formally charged.

He was accompanied by his current wife Maesaiah Thabane, 42, whom he married two months after Lipolelo’s death and who is considered a co-conspirator in the murder case.

She has already been charged with murder and is out on bail.

Defence lawyer Qhalehang Letsika argued that Thabane should not be charged as long as he remained a prime minister.

“My client cannot be prosecuted while in office but he is not above the law,” said Letsika, adding the beleaguered premier was “entitled to immunity” because of his status.

During the hearing, the lawyer asked whether a sitting prime minister should be subject to criminal prosecution as this could mean that he be placed in custody.

Thabane had initially been due in court on Friday for the preliminary appearance but was a no-show, prompting police to warn they could issue an arrest warrant.

His aide initially said Thabane had gone to neighbouring South Africa for “routine” health checks, but later his office said he was seeking “emergency” medical attention and would appear in court on his return.

 Appeared nervous 

On Saturday police said Thabane’s sick note said that the premier would be “unfit” until February 27.

Wearing a navy-blue striped suit with a powder-blue shirt and flanked by his spouse, Thabane appeared nervous as the couple sat on one of the court benches.

Lipolelo’s murder sent shockwaves through Lesotho — a tiny landlocked nation of 2.2 million with a history of political turmoil.

She was gunned down outside her home in Maseru just two days before her husband took office. The couple had been embroiled in a bitter divorce.

The accusations against the prime minister came after communications records from the scene of the murder included Thabane’s mobile phone number.

The case has piled pressure on Thabane to step down.

His All Basotho Convention (ABC) party has accused him of hampering investigations into the killing and asked him to leave.

Last week Thabane announced on national radio and television that he would retire by July 31, citing his advanced age.

But at the weekend speculation mounted that he could go earlier than expected.

The main opposition party the Democratic Congress, on Friday filed in parliament a motion of no confidence in the prime minister and his administration.

If Thabane loses the motion, he could either step down or advise King Letsie III to dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections.

AFP

Police To Charge Lesotho PM With Murder Of Wife

Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane/ AFP

 

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane will be charged with the murder of his estranged wife, who was gunned down ahead of his inauguration in 2017, police said Thursday, as the beleaguered premier announced he would quit by the end of July.

Lilopelo Thabane, 58, was killed in June 2017 by unknown assailants on the outskirts of the capital Maseru, two days before the premiere, now aged 80, took office.

The couple had been embroiled in bitter divorce proceedings when Lipolelo was murdered in front of her home in the capital Maseru.

Her death shook the tiny mountainous kingdom of Lesotho, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa.

Police investigations found that communications records from the day of the murder included his cell phone number.

Deputy Police Commissioner Paseka Mokete told AFP that the 80-year-old prime minister “will be formally charged with… murder”.

“It does not necessarily mean he was there but that he was acting in common purpose,” Mokete said.

The case also drew in the prime minister’s current wife, Maesaiah Thabane, 42, who has also been charged with the same murder of her rival.

“She was charged under common purpose even though she did not pull the trigger, but people she was acting in consent with pulled the trigger,” said Mokete by phone.

Sporting a bright yellow outfit complete with a matching headscarf, she sat straight-faced, next to the prime minister during his inauguration that was held at a stadium in Maseru, two days after the murder.

The long unresolved murder had plunged the PM’s leadership into question, forcing his All Basotho Convention (ABC) party to ask him to resign.

 ‘Old man should go’ 

The ABC had given him until Thursday to step aside but he snubbed their deadline, instead of saying he will only go by July 31.

“I effectively retire as prime minister with effect from the end of July this year, or at an earlier date if all the requisite preparations for my retirement are completed before then,” he said in an address on national radio.

He said the decision to step “has been the hardest to make in my over half-a-century career as in the public service. I have been battling with this idea for over a year now”.

“The truth is at my age I have lost most of my energy. I’m not as energetic as I used to be a few years ago,” he added.

“I hope that the remaining months that I will spend in office will afford parliament and my party enough time to work on transitional arrangements.”

Thabane’s re-election in 2017 had brought hopes of stability to Lesotho, a country with a long history of turmoil.

He first came to power in 2012 as head of the country’s first coalition government, formed after an inconclusive vote.

But his second term was rocked by Lipolelo’s murder and ructions in the ruling party, buffeting the picturesque kingdom of 2.2 million people.

Opposition parties and many ordinary people in the country also want Thabane gone.

“It defies logic how he still wants to remain in office despite the controversy that surrounds him,” said street vendor Malefa Mpobole, 42.

Another citizen, Lenka Ntjabane, 43, said: “This old man should just go. He should just take his wife and go”.

AFP

Netanyahu’s Trial To Begin In March

Netanyahu Seeks To Calm Israeli Concerns Over Trump's Syria Pullout
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on July 29, 2018. Sebastian Scheiner / POOL / AFP

 

The trial of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges will open on March 17, the justice ministry said Tuesday.

It said the indictment would be read by judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman in the presence of Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

The announcement comes as the 70-year-old prime minister campaigns ahead of March 2 elections, Israel’s third in less than a year, after two previous polls resulted in a deadlock between Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz.

Gantz had refused after September elections to join a unity government led by Netanyahu, saying he must first settle his differences with the judiciary before taking power.

Netanyahu was charged in the autumn last year with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit formally presented the charge sheet to the Jerusalem district court on January 28 after Netanyahu had withdrawn a request seeking parliamentary immunity lodged earlier that month.

His opponents had already mustered a majority in the legislature to deny him immunity.

Netanyahu is Israel’s only head of government to have been indicted during his term in office.

Under Israeli law, a sitting prime minister is only required to step down once convicted of an offence and after all avenues of appeal have been exhausted.

Netanyahu denies the charges and says he is the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.

AFP

Lesotho First Lady Charged With Murder

 

Lesotho police on Tuesday charged first lady Maesaiah Thabane with murder for her alleged links to the brutal 2017 killing of the prime minister’s previous wife.

Maesaiah Thabane, 42, will spend the night in custody after she came out of hiding and turned herself into the police earlier on Tuesday.

“She has been charged with murder alongside eight others who are in Lesotho and South Africa,” deputy police commissioner Paseka Mokete told reporters, adding that investigations had been “satisfactorily completed”.

He said police had a “strong case” against the first lady, who was unable to appear in court on Tuesday due to logistical reasons.

The eight other accused will also be summoned by the police.

Maesaiah Thabane went missing last month after being summoned as part of an investigation into the killing of Lipolelo Thabane — Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s estranged wife.

The couple was involved in bitter divorce proceedings when she was gunned down outside her home in Lesotho’s capital Maseru in June 2017, two days before her husband’s inauguration.

New evidence surfaced in early January when a letter from Lesotho’s police chief was made public alleging that communication records from the day of the crime picked up the prime minister’s mobile number.

Thomas Thabane, who is now 80, has since bowed to pressure and offered to resign at a date not yet disclosed. He has also been questioned by the police over the killing.

But his current wife vanished when the police called her in to testify last month, prompting the issuing of an arrest warrant.

The prime minister’s press attache did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the murder charge.

The murder of 58-year-old Lipolelo Thabane sent shock waves through the tiny mountain kingdom, which is ringed by South Africa and has a long history of political turmoil.

Senior members of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) party have accused the prime minister of hampering investigations into the killing.

Thabane last month said he would leave office on the grounds of old age but gave no time frame for his departure.

Hundreds of opposition supporters marched through the streets of Maseru on the day the prime minister was quizzed by police, demanding he step down with immediate effect.

Maesaiah Thabane was picked up on the border with South Africa following an arrangement between her lawyer and the police.

AFP

Lesotho PM To Resign Over Alleged Links To Wife’s Murder

Lesotho political party All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and candidate Tom Thabane (C) casts his ballot at a polling station in Maseru, during Lesotho’s general election. GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP

 

Lesotho’s prime minister has bowed to pressure to step down over evidence allegedly linking him to the murder of his estranged wife, the ruling party said Thursday.

Senior members of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party have accused Thomas Thabane of hampering investigations into the killing.

They called for his resignation last week.

In June 2017, unidentified assailants gunned down his wife, Lipolelo Thabane, 58, on the outskirts of Lesotho’s capital Maseru, two days before her husband’s inauguration.

The brutal murder was brought back into the limelight last week by a letter from Lesotho’s police chief Holomo Molibeli.

READ ALSO: Russian New PM Promises ‘Real Changes’ For Citizens

It claimed that communication records from the day of the crime picked up Thabane’s mobile phone number.

Lesotho political party All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and candidate Tom Thabane (C) casts his ballot at a polling station in Maseru, during Lesotho’s general election.   AFP

The letter — dated December 23, 2019 — became public in court documents filed by Molibeli after Thabane tried to suspend him over a separate matter.

“Mr Thabane has already made known his decision to resign to the cabinet in its seating on Tuesday,” ABC spokesman Montoeli Masoetsa told AFP on Thursday.

He said the next step for the party was to appoint a replacement, which would then need to be approved by parliament.

“There is no exact date in place as to when Thabane shall step down but it’s going to be soon,” Masoetsa added.

Lipolelo’s murder sent shock waves through the tiny poverty-stricken nation, which is entirely ringed by South Africa.

At the time his estranged wife was killed Thabane, now 80 years old, had been embroiled in bitter divorce proceedings with her.

Meanwhile, police have been unable to trace Thabane’s current wife, Maesaiah Thabane, since she failed to appear for questioning on January 10.

A court has issued a warrant for her arrest, which she unsuccessfully appealed.

Other high-profile figures have since also been summoned to provide information on the case, including the minister of water affairs and the government secretary.

“Government cannot be above (the) law,” Communications Minister Thesele Maseribane told reporters in Maseru.

“We would like to see her (Maesaiah Thabane) back home and go to the courts like everybody else.”

AFP

Russian New PM Promises ‘Real Changes’ For Citizens

Mikhail Mishustin, President Vladimir Putin’s nominee for the post of the prime minister, speaks to lawmakers during a session of the State Duma lower parliament in Moscow on January 16, 2020.
Alexander NEMENOV / AFP

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s new prime minister promised “real changes” on Thursday as he was approved by lawmakers after the Kremlin announced sweeping reform plans.

Putin tapped Mikhail Mishustin for the role as part of a series of bombshell announcements on Wednesday, which sparked speculation that Russia’s longtime leader could be preparing his own political future.

The lower house State Duma voted overwhelmingly to approve Mishustin as premier, less than 24 hours after Russia’s political order was shaken by Putin’s announcement of constitutional reforms and the resignation of the government.

No MPs voted against his candidacy, although Communist lawmakers abstained.

Speaking before his approval, Mishustin called on parliament to work with him to urgently enact Putin’s programme.

“People should already now be feeling real changes for the better,” Mishustin said.

Longtime prime minister Dmitry Medvedev resigned along with the cabinet following the constitutional reform announcement.

Putin’s current term as president ends in 2024 and observers say the 67-year-old could be laying the groundwork to assume a new position or remain in a powerful behind-the-scenes role.

Mishustin said his priority would be to “increase citizens’ real incomes” but also said the government must “restore trust” with the business community and drive innovation, echoing the state-of-the-nation speech when Putin announced the reforms.

He assured lawmakers that Russia can afford salary hikes and social payouts announced by Putin, estimating they will cost about four trillion rubles ($65 billion) over the next four years.

His appointment was finalised with a Putin decree. A second decree appointed Medvedev as deputy head of Russia’s Security Council — an advisory body — a post that was created for him.

 ‘Stay number one’ 

In his state of the nation speech, Putin said he wanted more authority transferred to parliament from the president.

He also called for the power of the State Council to be expanded and enshrined in the constitution — adding to conjecture that Putin could take it over after 2024 to preserve power.

Outlining the proposals, which would be the first significant changes to the country’s constitution since it was adopted in 1993, Putin said there was a “demand for change” among Russians.

While his nominee Mishustin was speaking in parliament, Putin met his newly formed working group for amending the constitution.

Putin said the amendments “would have no effect on the foundations of the constitution” but would make authorities “more effective” and ensure Russia’s development.

He said Russia would remain a presidential republic following the reforms, but it would be the parliament, not the president who would be picking the government.

Independent political analyst Maria Lipman said the announcements indicated that Putin wanted to “stay on as number one in the country, without any competitors”.

She said he could be deliberately weakening the presidency before relinquishing the role.

Russia’s opposition also said the proposals indicate Putin’s desire to stay in power.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny said on Twitter that Putin’s only goal was to “remain the sole leader for life”.

Medvedev, prime minister since 2012, posted a parting message on his VK social networking page on Thursday, saying Putin’s plans “demand a new approach” and thanking cabinet ministers for their work.

 Hockey and pop music 

Mishustin will have a week to propose a new government and ministers.

The former head of an investment group who trained as an engineer, Mishustin has a PhD in economics and has led Russia’s Federal Tax Service since 2010.

He shares Putin’s love for hockey and has played in matches with security services officials. Passionate about the digital economy, he has also composed music for pop songs, newspaper Vedomosti reported.

Navalny, who has alleged wide-scale corruption among Russia’s top politicians, on Thursday said Mishustin possesses a fortune inconsistent with his public service career and called on insiders to share information about his secrets.

AFP

Russian PM Resigns Over Constitutional Reform Calls

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev meet with members of the government in Moscow on January 15, 2020.  AFP

 

Russia’s government resigned in a shock announcement on Wednesday after President Vladimir Putin proposed a shake-up of the constitution.

The announcement by Putin’s longtime ally Dmitry Medvedev came after the president used his annual state of the nation address to call for a nationwide vote on a package of constitutional reforms.

The resignation raises deep questions about the long-term shape of Russia’s political system and the future of Putin, who is due to step down at the end of his fourth Kremlin term in 2024.

A few hours after the Russian leader’s address, Medvedev and Putin appeared alongside each other on national television to say the government was stepping down.

Medvedev said the constitutional proposals would make significant changes to the country’s balance of power and so “the government in its current form has resigned”.

“We should provide the president of our country with the possibility to take all the necessary measures” to carry out the changes, Medvedev said. “All further decisions will be taken by the president.”

Putin thanked Medvedev — who also served as Russian president for four years from 2008 — expressing “satisfaction with the results that have been achieved.”

The changes Putin proposed on Wednesday would transfer more authority to parliament, including the power to choose the prime minister and senior cabinet members, instead of the president as under the current system.

Other changes would see the role of regional governors enhanced and residency requirements tightened for presidential candidates.

“Today in our society there is a clear demand for change,” Putin said in his address. “People want development, they are striving to move forward in their careers, in their education, in becoming prosperous.”

The package of reforms would be put to a national vote, he said, without specifying when.

“We will be able to build a strong prosperous Russia only on the basis of respect for public opinion,” the 67-year-old leader said.

 ‘Leader for life’ 

Speculation has swirled about changes to Russia’s political system that would allow Putin to stay on after 2024.

Some have suggested he could remain as a prime minister with increased powers or in a powerful behind-the-scenes role.

It was unclear how, if at all, the constitutional changes could affect Putin’s future role.

But leading Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said he expected any referendum to be “fraudulent crap” and that Putin’s goal remained to be “sole leader for life”.

Russia last conducted a referendum in 1993 when it adopted the constitution under Putin’s predecessor Boris Yeltsin.

Putin has held a firm grip on the country since coming to power with Yeltsin’s resignation in 1999, staying on as prime minister when Medvedev took the presidency.

Re-elected to a six-year term in 2018, Putin has seen his approval ratings fall to some of their lowest levels, though still far above those of most Western leaders.

Recent polls put Putin’s rating at 68-70 percent, up a few points from a year ago but down from a high of more than 80 percent at the time of his last election.

Hit by Western sanctions over the 2014 annexation of Crimea, Russia’s economy has stagnated and most Russians have seen their disposable income fall.

Frustration boiled over last summer, with thousands taking to the streets of Moscow to protest the exclusion of opposition candidates from local elections, leading to wide-scale arrests and long jail terms for a number of demonstrators.

The state of the nation address — delivered in the Manezh exhibition hall next to the Kremlin — is one of three big annual Putin events, along with a marathon press conference and live phone-in where he takes questions from the Russian public.

Croatia Sentences Ex-PM For Corruption

Croatia’s former prime minister Ivo Sanader attends a hearing during his trial in Zagreb, Croatia.  STR / AFP

 

A Croatian court on Monday sentenced former prime minister Ivo Sanader to six years in jail and the boss of Hungary’s MOL energy group to two years for bribery.

Sanader — already serving time for a separate graft conviction — and MOL’s Zsolt Hernadi were convicted for “receiving and giving a bribe” concerning a 2009 deal after the Hungarian firm purchased shares in local oil and gas group INA, the judge said.

Judge Maja Stampar Stipic said the deal allowed then-PM Sanader to pocket 10 million euros ($11 million) in exchange for granting the Hungarian firm control over INA.

MOL, whose main shareholder is the Budapest government, has a 49 percent INA stake, while Zagreb holds a 44 percent stake.

“As the top state official, Sanader … jeopardised Croatia’s vital economic interests,” prosecutor Tonci Petkovic said in his final statement.

Defence attorneys for CEO Hernadi, who was tried in absentia, argued that the prosecutors did not prove an “incriminating tie” between the two defendants.

Both men pleaded not guilty and can appeal the verdict.

The former premier was already found guilty of the charge in 2012, but the country’s top court overturned his eight-and-a-half-year jail sentence and called for a re-trial.

Croatia has sought Hernadi’s arrest for years, but Hungary has refused to extradite him.

Sanader, conservative prime minister from 2003 to 2009, has faced several other graft cases in which he is suspected of embezzling millions of euros.

In April he was jailed to serve a six-year sentence in another corruption case.

In 2018 he was also sentenced to two and half years for war profiteering, but acquitted of abuse of power charges in another trial.

Sanader is the highest official to be charged with corruption in Croatia since independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Tackling corruption was key for the country’s successful bid to join the European Union in 2013.

AFP

Protesters Storm New Lebanon PM’s Home, Ask Him To Resign

Lebanese protesters shout slogans as they gather outside the house of Lebanon’s new prime minister in the capital Beirut, calling for his resignation less than 10 days after he was appointed, on December 28, 2019. Inset is PM Hassan Diab/AFP

 

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the Beirut home of Lebanon’s new prime minister on Saturday, calling for Hassan Diab’s resignation less than 10 days after he was appointed.

Lebanon is without a cabinet and in the grips of a deepening economic crisis after a two-month-old protest movement forced Saad Hariri to stand down as prime minister on October 29.

Anti-government protests continued after Hariri’s resignation, while political parties negotiated for weeks before nominating Diab, a professor and former education minister, to replace him on December 19.

Echoing protester demands, Diab promised to form a government of independent experts within six weeks — in a country where appointing a cabinet can take months.

But protesters on Saturday were unconvinced by his promise.

“We’re here to bring down Hassan Diab. He doesn’t represent us. He’s one of them,” said one young demonstrator, referring to the country’s ruling elite, who protesters despise collectively.

Lina, another protester agreed, saying: “It’s the revolution that must name the prime minister, not them.”

The 60-year-old Diab, who has a low public profile and styles himself as a technocrat, last week called protester demands legitimate but asked them to give him a chance to form “an exceptional government”.

“We are willing to give him a chance, but let us at least give him a roadmap,” Lina told AFP.

“The names don’t matter to us, we want policy plans, what is his programme?” she asked.

Protesters decry Diab’s participation as a minister in a government deemed corrupt.

The support given to him by powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah also angers many protesters and pro-Hariri Sunnis.

Protesters also gathered in the northern Sunni majority city of Tripoli on Saturday, an AFP photographer said.

The protests and political deadlock have brought Lebanon to its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

The international community has urged a new cabinet to be formed swiftly to implement economic reforms and unlock international aid.

AFP

Algeria’s New Prime Minister Pledges To Regain Trust

This screen grab taken from Algerie 3 official television station on December 28, 2019, shows the newly appointed Algerian Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad speaking after a meeting with the president in the capital Algiers. AFP

 

Algeria’s new president on Saturday named as his prime minister an academic turned political insider who vowed to work to win back people’s trust after months of street protests.

Abdelmadjid Tebboune, elected this month to succeed ousted president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, asked Abdelaziz Djerad to form a government, the presidency announced in a statement carried by state television.

The 65-year-old premier, who has a Ph.D in political science, struck a conciliatory tone after meeting Tebboune, whose election victory was rejected by protesters as a ploy to keep establishment insiders in power.

Djerad pledged to work with all Algerians to surmount the economic and social challenges confronting the north African country.

“We face a major challenge to win back the trust” of the people, he added.

But the initial response on the street to Djerad’s appointment suggested he has his work cut out.

“This change of prime minister is illegitimate since the one who appointed him is illegitimate,” said pharmacy student Maassoum.

The people “asked for a new soup. They just changed the spoon,” said one of his friends, Amine.

Although from an academic background, Djerad already has experience of the inner workings of the Algerian state, having held posts including general secretary of the presidency from 1993-1995 and the same role at the foreign ministry from 2001-2003.

He replaces Sabri Boukadoum, the foreign minister who was appointed interim prime minister after Tebboune’s election win.

Algeria’s 10-month-old protest movement has rejected Tebboune as part of the same corrupt system that has ruled since independence in 1962.

Demonstrators have stayed on the streets since Bouteflika resigned in April after two decades in office.

On Friday tens of thousands of Algerians rallied again insisting on a total revamp of the political establishment.

But the demonstration seemed one of the smallest since the start of the unprecedented, peaceful uprising, with some protesters saying school and university holidays had kept people away.

The crowd was outnumbered by the throngs of people who had turned out for the funeral on Wednesday of powerful army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah, who had become the de facto strongman in the country after Bouteflika quit.

The December 12 election was boycotted by a large part of the electorate.

Tebboune won with 58.1 percent of the vote on a turnout of less than 40 percent, according to official results, and was sworn in on December 19, days before Gaid Salah died of a heart attack at age 79.

AFP