ALGIERS: Algeria’s new president on Saturday named as his prime minister an academic turned political insider who vowed to work to win back people’s trust after months of street protests. Abdelmadjid Tebboune, elected this month to succeed ousted president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, asked Abdelaziz Djerad to form a government, the presidency announced in a statement carried by state television. The 65-year-old premier, who has a Ph.D in political science, struck a conciliatory tone after meeting Tebboune, whose election victory was rejected by protesters as a ploy to keep establishment insiders in power.
Djerad pledged to work with all Algerians to surmount the economic and social challenges confronting the north African country. “We face a major challenge to win back the trust” of the people, he added. But the initial response on the street to Djerad’s appointment suggested he has his work cut out. “This change of prime minister is illegitimate since the one who appointed him is illegitimate,” said pharmacy student Maassoum.
The people “asked for a new soup. They just changed the spoon,” said one of his friends, Amine. Although from an academic background, Djerad already has experience of the inner workings of the Algerian state, having held posts including general secretary of the presidency from 1993-1995 and the same role at the foreign ministry from 2001-2003.
He replaces Sabri Boukadoum, the foreign minister who was appointed interim prime minister after Tebboune’s election win. Algeria’s 10-month-old protest movement has rejected Tebboune as part of the same corrupt system that has ruled since independence in 1962. Demonstrators have stayed on the streets since Bouteflika resigned in April after two decades in office. On Friday tens of thousands of Algerians rallied again insisting on a total revamp of the political establishment.
But the demonstration seemed one of the smallest since the start of the unprecedented, peaceful uprising, with some protesters saying school and university holidays had kept people away. The crowd was outnumbered by the throngs of people who had turned out for the funeral on Wednesday of powerful army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah, who had become the de facto strongman in the country after Bouteflika quit.
The December 12 election was boycotted by a large part of the electorate. Tebboune won with 58.1 percent of the vote on a turnout of less than 40 percent, according to official results, and was sworn in on December 19, days before Gaid Salah died of a heart attack at age 79. -AFP