Algeria interim leader makes new call for dialogue

ALGIERS� Algeria’s interim president Abdelkader

Bensalah has called for a national dialogue to prepare for delayed

presidential elections, vowing that the state and the military would remain

neutral in the process.

In a speech on Wednesday he did not set a timetable for when the talks

would be launched. But he said this dialogue will be led freely and with

total transparency by national independent figures who have credibility and who are not linked to any party.

The state in all its components, including the military, will not be party

to this dialogue and will remain neutral throughout, Bensalah added.

His comments were a clear response to protesters who have flooded the

streets of the Algerian capital and other cities and towns since February,

initially against a bid by Bouteflika to seek a fifth term.

But even after the ailing president resigned in April, protesters have

continued to rally, pushing for key backers of Bouteflika’s 20-year-rule �

such as Bensalah � to step down before any new polls to elect his successor

are held.

Bensalah made the proposal on the eve of Algeria’s 57th anniversary of

independence from French rule and ahead of the 20th consecutive Friday of

anti-government demonstrations.

His offer comes just days before his interim mandate expires on July 9, in

line with the constitution which stipulates a 90-day period during which new presidential elections should be held.

Following his appointment by lawmakers on April 9, Bensalah pledged to

organise a transparent presidential election but a vote planned for July 4

was scrapped after the only two candidates were rejected.

During the weekly protests, demonstrators have been chanting: No elections with this gang in power.

But during his speech, Bensalah urged demonstrators to set aside

unrealistic requirements that are likely to prolong the current situation

and drag our country into a constitutional vacuum.

Bensalah has already said that because of Algeria’s exceptional situation

he has no other choice but to prolong his interim as head of state until a

new presidential election.

Protesters have repeatedly called on Bensalah and other Bouteflika-era

officials to step down, but they believe that the real powerbroker today in

Algeria is army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah.

Gaid Salah was an ally of the ailing president, but as pressure from

demonstrators mounted he ultimately called for the long-time leader’s


Everything will depend on who is chosen to take part in the dialogue

proposed by the interim president, says Abdelouahab Fersaoui, president of

the Rally for Youth Action civil society group.