New Algerian prime minister to form 'technocratic government'

Noureddine Bedoui says he will work on reforms after President Bouteflika opted out of April polls in face of protests.

    The new prime minister says his government 'will represent young Algerians including young women' [Reuters]
    The new prime minister says his government 'will represent young Algerians including young women' [Reuters]

    New Algerian Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui has said he will set up a technocratic interim government days after longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika opted out of the presidential race in the face of mass protests.

    Bedoui, who was appointed prime minister this week after his predecessor Ahmed Ouyahia resigned in the wake of the protests, said his new cabinet would be formed early next week and will include representatives of the young Algerians who have been staging mass protests to push for quick political changes.

    Bouteflika, the 82-year-old wheelchair-bound leader, also decided to delay the long-awaited election scheduled to be held in April, sparking countrywide protests.

    Speaking at a press briefing in the capital, Algiers, the new prime minister said postponing the presidential election came in response to ''people's will'' and that an independent commission would oversee the election, for which he did not specify a date.

    "This government will have a short period, and its role is to be the support for the national conference and what Algerians agree upon," said Bedoui.

    "The make-up will be one that represents all the forces, especially the youthful ones of the sons and daughters of our nation, so that we can meet the aspirations that the Algerian citizen expressed."

    190311174206302

    The prime minister urged the opposition to accept dialogue, but lawyers and activists behind the protests are in no mood to compromise and say they will not negotiate, at least not now.

    However, the prime minister's aims were deemed "pointless and meaningless" and "not an appropriate answer to people's demands".

    "I expect nothing good from the upcoming government as Bedoui is among the rulers who the population does not want," Mohamed, who took part to the demonstrations in Algiers since last month, told Al Jazeera.

    Abdelwahab Fersaoui, president of the youth association Rassemblement Action Jeunesse (RAJ), denounced a "Machiavellian project".

    "They aim at stifling the overwhelmingly peaceful protest movement," said Fersaoui.

    "Why should we trust the leaders who have been ruling the country for the last two decades to handle a democratic transition within a year while they did nothing to push for political changes for the past 20 years.

    "This is just smoke and mirrors. We are not confronting to a crisis of leadership. What we are dealing with is a crisis of regime."

    Polls postponed indefinitely

    Bouteflika has faced three weeks of mass protests against his planned fifth-term run.

    He relented on Monday by announcing he would not be running again but said the presidential elections scheduled for April 18 would be postponed indefinitely.

    190312143022460

    The ailing president, 82, made the unexpected decision in a letter to the Algerian people released on state-owned agency APS, a day after returning from a two-week stay at Geneva University Hospital for "routine medical tests".

    According to Bouteflika's message and prime minister-designate's statements, an inclusive and independent conference will oversee the transition of power, drafting new constitutional law and setting the date for new presidential elections.

    Bouteflika, who has been in power for 20 years and has rarely appeared in public since a stroke in 2013, has promised to work for a new era that would cater to all Algerians.

    His offer came after tens of thousands of Algerians staged weeks of protests demanding an overhaul of a stagnant political system dominated by veterans of the 1954-1962 war of independence.

    Additional reporting by Djamila Ould Khettab in Algiers

    Bouteflika has faced three weeks of mass protests [Ramzi Boudina/Reuters]

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies