Algeria’s Interim President Abdelkader Bensalah in a televised speech, promised Tuesday to organize free elections within 90 days following weeks of protests that led to the resignation of leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika after 20 years in power.
The Interior Minister issued licenses for 10 new political parties in Algeria after the announcement of the interim president. While Algeria has about 15 opposition parties, they are seen as weak, and the ministry’s move appeared to be aimed at placating protesters seeking more democracy.
Abdelkader Bensalah, the Interim President, was rejected by demonstrators right after he was named by Parliament to take charge during a volatile transition period.
“I am committed to organizing elections,” said Bensalah, who has been re-elected as leader of the upper house since the early 2000s.
Hours after parliament’s decision, Algeria’s army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gaid Salah said the military will do more to ensure peace for the Algerian people.
The demonstrations, which erupted on Feb. 22, led to the disintegration of what has been described as the ruling elite’s “fortress” – veterans of the war of independence against France, ruling party figures, businessmen, the army and labor unions.
“The army will meet the people’s demands,” said Salah, addressing officers and soldiers at a military base. “The judiciary has recovered its prerogative and can work freely.”
He referred to the ruling caste as “the gang”, a term people have used in the protests to describe Bouteflika’s inner circle.
More than one in four people under the age of 30, some 70 percent of the population, are unemployed – one of the central grievances of protesters.