Algeria launches national dialogue to end political crisis

ALGIERS Algeria has opened a new chapter towards ending the political crisis that has hit the North African nation since Feb. 22 amid unprecedented popular rallies demanding a radical change of the regime.

In this regard, Algeria’s interim President Abdelkader Bensalah on Thursday assigned a group of six renowned personages the mission of leading the comprehensive national dialogue, in which the authority and the army would not participate.

The presidency said in a statement that Bensalah received in office Karim Younes, former speaker of the parliament, along with university professors Fatiha Benabbou, Smail Lalmas and Bouzid Lazhari, as well as human rights activists Abdelwahab Bendjelloul and Azzedine Benaissa, as they are members of the dialogue team agreed on by the interim president.

According to the statement, the six people enjoy credibility, competency and acceptability among the people, as they have no party affiliation or electoral ambition.

They accepted the mission of playing mediation roles within the framework of a comprehensive political approach to find a way out of the crisis hitting the nation, it added.

As the only reasonable democratic way to solve the present problem, this approach provides for the completion of the process leading to organizing presidential elections, the statement said.

Bensalah took office after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s resignation on April 2, and called for a presidential election on July 4, but the lack of candidates has prevented it.

He also stressed the state’s commitment to ensuring conditions for organizing free and fair presidential elections to meet the aspirations of the popular protest movement for a state of rule of law.

However, in response to the request by the members of the dialogue mediation team, Bensalah has called on the Justice Department to consider the possibility of releasing people who were arrested because of popular rallies.

The dialogue team is expected to begin its mission immediately with technical and logistical support from the state, which will put at its disposal all the means it needs.

Bensalah insisted that the dialogue team has full freedom to define the mechanisms of the dialogue, its agenda and period, and it has full freedom to take the necessary legislative, legal and regulatory measures to hold presidential elections.

The interim president called on all concerned parties to participate in the dialogue because the time is precious, as major challenges are awaiting our country, which may turn into threats.

As head of the dialogue mediation team, Younes told reporters after meeting with Bensalah that national dialogue remains the only way that can ensure a peaceful way out of the crisis in line with the aspirations of the Algerian people for a new Algeria.

Younes also urged for the release of all prisoners arrested during the protest movement, and hoped that Algerian citizens could exercise their constitutional rights to peaceful demonstrations and assemblies.

Algeria has been witnessing mass protests since late February. For now, the demonstrators are demanding the departure of the interim president and the cabinet led by Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui under the pretext that they belong to the regime of the ousted president.