Algeria’s next in line: Bouteflika loyalist Abdelkader Bensalah

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Abdelkader Bensalah, the man tipped to take over as Algeria’s interim leader, is a longtime Bouteflika loyalist whose appointment would be unlikely to appease protesters calling for an overhaul of the entire political system.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s office said Monday the ailing leader would step down before his fourth term ends on April 28, capitulating to growing calls for his resignation after two decades in power.

Under the constitution, once his resignation is tendered, the speaker of Algeria’s upper house of parliament, Bensalah, would take over as interim leader for a maximum of 90 days.

A close Bouteflika ally, Bensalah has become a familiar face in recent years, often taking on the duties the president was too ill to perform, such as welcoming foreign leaders to Algeria.

As President of the Council of the Nation, Algeria’s upper house of parliament, Bensalah has been a vocal supporter of Bouteflika’s widely contested plans to seek a fifth term in office, which triggered the current protests.

The 76-year-old is a member of the National Rally for Democracy (RND) – a party closely allied to the President’s National Liberation Front (FLN).

In the 1990s Abdelkader Bensalah occupied a number of high-profile roles, taking on the presidency of the country’s lower house of parliament in 1997. He’s been continually re-elected as leader of the upper house since 2002.

In recent weeks, with Bouteflika loyalists turning their backs on the president one by one, Bensalah has stood by the ailing leader.

Under Algeria’s constitution, he would have up to 90 days to organise new elections. But analysts warn that his appointment would be unlikely to appease protestors, who have been calling for an overhaul of the very political establishment Bensalah represents.

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