Algeria announces date for presidential election

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Algeria’s interim leader has announced December 12 as the date for the Presidential election, in line with the army chief’s demand to fill the vacancy left when long-time leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika was pushed from office more than five months ago.

Abdelkader Bensallah during an address to the North African nation last Sunday night called on citizens to make December 12 “an historic day to make the dreams of our people concrete”.

Army Chief Ahmed Gaid Salah has been pushing for elections as quickly as possible and even named Sunday as the date to announce them. A pro-democracy movement holding weekly protests since February wants time to organise elections that ensure all traces of the old system are gone.

Bensallah took office as interim leader after Bouteflika, rarely seen since a 2013 stroke, was pushed out by protests in April following 20 years in power. Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term triggered the demonstrations.

The interim leader has overstayed his constitutional time limit of 90 days. In his address, he said elections will return the oil- and gas-rich country to “constitutional legality and allow our people to choose its future President freely and sovereignly”.

Bensallah last week pushed through two electoral measures, including the creation of a body to oversee the voting process, and Parliament quickly gave its approval.

While the body is said to be independent, the person chosen last Sunday to lead it is a former Justice Minister long linked to past administrations, including Bouteflika’s.

The Army Chief has said the political vacuum in Africa’s largest country must be filled with an elected President, and contended that the protesters are being manipulated by enemies from within and without.

That Bensallah followed through as he demanded suggests that the army, which has run the country at least from behind the scenes since independence, maintains its hold on political life.

Abdelkader Bensalah named interim leader to replace former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. PHOTO: AP