17 April 2019

Algeria Replaces Head of Constitutional Council, Which Will Oversee Presidential Election

Algeria's interim President Abdelkader Bensalah has appointed a new head of the Constitutional Council. The Council will oversee future presidential elections after former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down under popular pressure earlier this month.

The former head, Tayeb Belaiz, quit under pressure from protesters. Late Tuesday Bensalah chose Kamel Feniche, a magistrate who has been a member of the council since 2016, to replace Belaiz,

Anti-government protesters had been demanding Belaiz's removal, along with two other figures, seen as part of Bouteflika's discredited regime. They have also called for Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui and Bensalah to step down. Bensalah served as upper house speaker until being appointed interim president after Bouteflika quit.

Belaiz's departure could help calm protesters by clearing the way for someone considered more independent. The constitutional council plays a key role in elections, vetting candidates and ensuring the regularity of the polls.

Bouteflika is gone, but what role for the army?

Also Tuesday, in a speech broadcast on state television, army chief Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaed Salah said that the military is considering all options to resolve the political crisis, but warned that "time is running out" to meet protesters' demands.

He also urged the protesters to avoid violence. The army has been monitoring the mostly peaceful protests that started in February, and which have sometimes swelled to hundreds of thousands of people.

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