Algerian protesters demand interim leader step down

ALGIERS: Hundreds of protesters gathered in the Algerian capital Algiers on Friday, demanding the country’s interim President Abdelkader Bensalah step down, a day after he vowed to stay in his position until a new president is elected. In April, Bensalah set presidential elections for July 4, a decision that drew opposition from protesters who had earlier forced long-time president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign. On Sunday, Algeria cancelled the polls after the sole two contenders were disqualified. No date has been set yet for a new vote.

On Friday, protesters rallied to Grand Post Square, a focal point for anti-government demonstrations in the centre of Algiers. They expressed their rejection of Bensalah’s call for dialogue ahead of new polls. “We will not tolerate Bensalah. He will not remain the head of the state as he said yesterday (Thursday),” Ismail Omrani, a protester, said. Days after Bouteflika’s resignation in April, Bensalah was appointed by parliament to lead the North African country in a three-month transitional period. Demonstrations have since continued every Friday in Algeria demanding the departure of Bensalah and other Bouteflika-era officials.

The protesters have also called for the postponement of the vote over fears of fraud. “Bensalah came out (Thursday), putting on an innocent face and suggested that the millions, who have rejected him, have no weight,”said activist Faris Badhuch. “Today, we tell him that his stay as head of state is about to expire,” the 29-year-old man added. Bouteflika, who had ruled the country for 20 years, stepped down after weeks of nationwide protests and pressure from the powerful military. — DPA