Algeria interim leader urges 'dialogue' over election

Abdelkader Bensalah calls for an election date to be set 'as soon as possible' days after planned vote was pulled.

    Demonstrators have been calling for elections to be delayed and for Bensalah to step down [File: Ramzi Boudina/Reuters]
    Demonstrators have been calling for elections to be delayed and for Bensalah to step down [File: Ramzi Boudina/Reuters]

    Algeria's interim president Abdelkader Bensalah on Thursday called for "dialogue" after the authorities ruled out holding a planned election on July 4.

    Bensalah urged the political class and civil society in the North African country to hold an "inclusive dialogue" aimed at fixing a new date for elections "as soon as possible" in a televised address.

    Algeria's constitutional council said on Sunday it was impossible to stage the poll to choose a successor to former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika early next month, after the only two candidates were rejected.

    The move comes after weeks of demonstrations intended to pressure political leaders into postponing the vote.

    Bensalah, the former upper house speaker, was appointed on April 9 under constitutional rules which deem a presidential election must then be held within 90 days.

    With that deadline certain to be missed, the constitutional council has suggested his mandate be extended.

    The planned vote had drawn widespread protests, with Algerian demonstrators demanding Bouteflika allies step aside to make way for a broader political overhaul before any elections are held.

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    Army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah has emerged as a key powerbroker since Bouteflika stepped down on April 2 in the face of mass protests against his bid for a fifth term.

    Gaid Salah had been an ally of the ailing president, but as pressure from demonstrators mounted he ultimately called for the long-time leader's impeachment.

    Protesters have since called for Gaid Salah to step down, along with other top figures they argue are tainted by their allegiance to Bouteflika during his 20-year rule.

    While Gaid Salah had pushed for polls, July 4 looked increasingly implausible as no major party nominated a candidate.

    A major obstacle emerged when some mayors and magistrates said they would not take part in organising the polls.

    The two unknown figures who put themselves forward, Abdelhakim Hamadi and Hamid Touahri, had not been expected to gather the necessary 60,000 voter signatures to validate their bid for office.

    SOURCE: AFP news agency