Leading Algerian official quits as student protests intensify

Leading Algerian official quits as student protests intensify
The controversial head of the Algeria's constitutional council quit Tuesday bowing to weeks of anger from protesters.
2 min read
16 April, 2019
Belaiz stepped down on Tuesday after months of protests [AFP]

The head of Algeria's constitutional council stepped down Tuesday after he faced the ire of continued protests, state television reported.

Tayeb Belaiz informed the council, which will play a key role in upcoming presidential elections, that "he presented his resignation... to the head of state".

Algerians have called for Belaiz and other top figures to quit in mass demonstrations which prompted the departure of veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika earlier this month.

Protesters have targeted the "3B" - Belaiz, Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, and Abdelkader Bensalah who served as upper house speaker until being appointed interim president after Bouteflika's resignation.

Bensalah has defended his appointment under constitutional rules and has pledged a transparent vote, to be held on 4 July.

The constitutional council is tasked with vetting election candidates, as well as ensuring the regularity of the polls.

Belaiz has served as a minister almost without interruption for 16 years and was appointed head of the constitutional council for the second time on 2 February.

Later that month Algerians took to the streets to rally against Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term in polls initially schedule for April.

The demonstrations swelled and spread nationwide, with protesters calling for a broad overhaul of the political system following the president's departure.

Earlier this week, Algeria's magistrates, who play a key role overseeing the country's elections, said they would boycott a 4 July presidential election in support of the protest movement.

More than 100 magistrates staged a protest outside the justice ministry on Saturday in response to a call by the Magistrates' Club - a nascent group set up as an alternative to the regime's National Magistrates' Syndicate (SNM).

They have rejected the July poll, arguing that elections cannot be free and fair if they are held under the same judicial framework and institutions as those of the Bouteflika regime.

Magistrates play a major role organising votes in Algeria. Notably, they oversee the electoral roll, a frequent source of disputes between the regime and the opposition.

A revision of the register is set to take place later this month, ahead of the July election.

Meanwhile, police were massively deployed around the capital's post office building, the focal point of anti-government rallies which first erupted in February.

"Free Algeria," chanted protests, who rallied outside the iconic building.

Demonstrators fear that the election will not be free and fair if they are held under the same judicial framework and institutions as those of the Bouteflika regime.

The interim president said his appointment was in line with constitutional rules, and pledged to hold a transparent vote.

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