Algeria‘s parliament has officially confirmed Senate President Abdelkader Bensalah as acting head of state for the next 90 days, replacing Abdelaziz Bouteflika who ruled the country for nearly two decades.
The move to designate Bensalah interim president follows the constitutional council’s decision last week to declare the presidency vacant after Bouteflika submitted his resignation. He stepped down after nearly two months of protests.
“I am required by national duty to take on this heavy responsibility of steering a transition that will allow the Algerian people to exercise their sovereignty,” Bensalah said on Tuesday.
“We must work to allow the Algerian people to elect their president as soon as possible.”
Bensalah will rule until fresh elections are held, in accordance with the country’s constitution.
Meanwhile, the announcement led to protests by students who gathered in central Algiers shortly after. Police fired tear gas and used water cannons to disperse the protesters.
Images posted on social media showed several students chanting anti-government slogans and holding placards reading “they all have to be removed”.
On Friday, three days after Bouteflika resigned, tens of thousands of Algerians had marched in cities across the country to demand a complete overhaul of the political system.
In addition to Bensalah, protesters said they do not want Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui and Constitutional Council President Tayeb Belaiz – all known to be Bouteflika loyalists – to be involved in the political transition.
According to articles 102 and 104 of the constitution, which regulate the process of removing an ailing or deceased head of state, a new government cannot be appointed until a presidential election is held.
“If they keep up the momentum for the next couple of weeks, they will definitely have their message heard by the military establishment,” said Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra.
“You cannot afford to have, in a country like Algeria, a disconnect between a political elite – which is more and more isolated – and a growing democracy movement which is saying the results that we are seeing so far fall short of our demands.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday welcomed Bouteflika’s resignation as a “first step in ending autocratic rule”.
“As Algeria finds itself at a crossroads, reform will be genuine only if it involves dismantling the repressive legal machinery that the authorities have used for years to repress dissenting voices,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa director at HRW.