ALGIERS – Algerians will go to the polls July 4 to choose a new president, the interim government that took over after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down in response to mass protests said Wednesday.
The acting head of state, Senate leader Abdelkader Bensalah, signed the order on Tuesday, hours after being sworn-in, the government said in a brief statement.
Under Algeria’s constitution, the interim administration has to call a new election within 90 days.
The announcement coincided with another round of student protests in Algiers amid popular rejection of the transition plan and of the officials presiding over the process: Bensalah; Constitutional Council chairman Tayeb Belaiz; and former Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui – known collectively as the “three Bs.”
For the second day in a row, police responded to the protests with tear gas and water cannon.
The three Bs are part of what Algerians call “Le Pouvoir” (The Power), a network that also includes other senior officials and businessmen who have been part of Bouteflika’s circle.
Army chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Gaïd Salah, who was instrumental in forcing out the 82-year-old Bouteflika, publicly endorsed the controversial transition mechanism in a speech earlier Wednesday.
Trying to manage the process without existing institutions “could compromise all that has been achieved to this day since independence” from France in 1962, he said at a military headquarters in Oran.
The military, he said, will oversee the transition to ensure that it proceeds in a manner consistent with “the mutual confidence between the people and their army.”
Salah accused “some foreign parties with historical antecedents in our country” of trying to impose a solution on Algeria, clearly alluding to France, the former colonial power.
The protests against Bouteflika, who has rarely been seen in public since he suffered a stroke in 2013, began after presidential aides announced his intention to seek another term in the elections that were initially scheduled for April 18.
Though Bouteflika withdrew from the race on March 11, his withdrawal was accompanied by a postponement of the balloting, which sparked suspicions that he was maneuvering to remain in power beyond the end of his current mandate.
He submitted his resignation on April 2, a day after Said signaled that the army would no longer support Bouteflika.