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Algerian protesters reject interim president

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Algerian security forces cordon off a protest area during an anti-regime demonstration in the capital Algiers on April 10, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Thousands of Algerians have taken to the streets of the capital Algiers to protest against the appointment of the speaker of the upper house of parliament, Abdelkader Bensalah, as interim president, whom they see as a leftover of the regime of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Chanting "Go away Bensalah!" and "A free Algeria!", protesters on Wednesday amid heavy police presence gathered in the capital's May 1 Square and near the Grand Post Office, the epicenters of anti-regime rallies which erupted on February 22.

The parliament on Tuesday appointed Bensalah as interim president in line with constitutional rules following the resignation of ailing Bouteflika in the face of weeks of mass demonstrations against his rule.

The protesters are demanding the removal of the remnants of Bouteflika’s regime.

"They have to go. They have to go. The whole government, the whole gang. That's it. It is enough," one of the protesters said.

"We came out today because they appointed Bensalah and we do not want him to govern us. We want them to leave. All of them," Mohammed Masoudi, who joined the protest, said.

The protests came despite Bensalah’s promise to hold "transparent" presidential elections within 90 days as stipulated in Algeria’s constitution.

According to a Wednesday statement from the presidency, the country will hold a presidential election on July 4.

Bouteflika announced his resignation on April 2 following months of protests against his rule that erupted over his decision to seek a fifth term. The 82-year-old had been in power for the past 20 years but was reportedly in poor health and had rarely appeared in public after suffering a stroke in 2013.

Several of Bouteflika’s close allies had ditched him following weeks of protests, including armed forces chief Ahmed Gaid Salah.

The army chief apparently lent support to the interim leaders, saying "It is unreasonable to manage the transition period without the institutions".

Salah, quoted in a defense ministry statement, said the military would ensure the transition follows the "rules of transparency and integrity, and the laws of the republic", but warned against "slogans aimed at leading the country to a constitutional void and destroying state institutions".

"With the start of the new phase and continued marches, we deplore the emergence of attempts by certain foreign parties... to destabilize the country", he said.

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