UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Abdelkader Bensalah

Abdelkader Bensalah, a pure product of the Algerian regime, is responsible for ensuring the transition. 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. The widely respected Bensalah was considered able to manage the presidential succession process should Bouteflika not be able to finish his term. According to the Algerian constitution, Bensalah would take over as interim head of state in the event that President Bouteflika becomes incapacitated or passes away, and would be responsible for organizing elections within 90 days. The Acting Head of State, Abelkader Bensalah, 77, can not run.

An official of the Council of the Nation who had rubbed shoulders with him described him as a man often jovial, but capable of a great severity. Without a particular oratorical talent, he is a good servant of the system, describes a politician who has worked with him, who attributes to his discretion, maintained to skim the erasure, his longevity in the corridors of power.

Born in 1941 [1942?] in Beni Meshel, Fellaoucene, in the province of Tlemcen (540-km west of Algiers), some of his critics accuse him of being a Moroccan by birth, and of having been naturalized Algerian in the 1960s, which would prevent him from assuming the presidential functions, even on an interim basis. Abdelkader Bensalah has always denied and assured to be Algerian by birth.

Abdelkader Bensalah was not 18 when he joined the ranks of the National Liberation Army (NLA), which has been fighting the French colonial army since 1954. At the time of independence, in 1962, he obtained a scholarship and went to study law in Damascus, before returning to Algeria, where he joined in 1967 the writing of the national Arabic newspaper El Chaab ("The People"), at a when the state holds the monopoly of the press and the media.

Bensalah has a long experience in Parliamentary affairs, as he was first elected MP in 1977. Re-elected twice, he chaired for ten years the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress (APN, lower house ). Ambassador of Algeria in Saudi Arabia from 1989 to 1993, he is then spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1994, he was head of the National Transitional Council, a lawmaking institution that lasted three years. In 1997, he was elected speaker of the People's National Assembly (Lower House of Parliament), and in 2000, he became president of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union (AIPU). In the 1990s Abdelkader Bensalah occupied a number of high-profile roles. He had been continually re-elected as leader of the upper house since 2002.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his resignation late on 02 April 2019 after two decades at the helm, capitulating to weeks of massive protests aimed at pushing him and his inner circle from power. Under the constitution, the speaker of Algeria's upper house of parliament, Bensalah, is due to 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).

Abdelkader Bensalah was re-elected, 129-0, as the President of the Conseil de la Nation (Senate) on 12 January 2007. Bensalah remained first in line to succeed President Bouteflika in the event that he is unable to complete his current term. Bensalah's re-election became a foregone conclusion when no other senator challenged him for the post. The result was predetermined once President Bouteflika signaled to the senators that he wanted Bensalah to retain his position. Senators privately complained that, out of respect to Bouteflika, no other candidates had presented themselves.

On the day of the election, eight new senators joined the Conseil de la Nation as part of the third of the membership appointed directly by President Bouteflika. All had one characteristic in common: they are "moudjahidine," or veterans (like Bouteflika) of the war of independence against France. These newly appointed senators, as members of the "revolutionary family" and in a sense "siblings of President Bouteflika," will be very loyal to him. Some senators quietly expressed their frustration that the president did not reach out to members of the younger generation who will need to lead the country after Bouteflika and his generation pass from the scene.

He was a strong supporter of the revision of the Constitution, which in 2008 allowed the lifting of the term limits and the opening of the way for Mr. Bouteflika's life presidency. Abdelkader Bensalah also backed a fifth term of office, which took Algerians out onto the streets en masse.

The new members of the Council of the Nation (Upper House of Parliament) elected during for the partial renewal of the house, on December 29, and the senators appointed by the president of the Republic (third of the Council) as part of the presidential third were installed 29 January 2019, in a plenary session, during which Abdelkader Bensalah was re-elected speaker of the Council. Bensalah has been re-elected by an overwhelming majority in a plenary session, held on the eve of important national elections. The re-election of Bensalah was proposed by the National Liberation Front (FLN, parliamentary majority), the National Democratic Rally (RND), his own party, and the senators appointed by the president.

In March 2019, with Bouteflika loyalists turning their backs on the president one by one, Bensalah 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.

During the interim before the next presidential election, the government can not be dismissed or reworked. If the prime minister is a presidential candidate, he automatically resigns and is replaced by a member of the government appointed by the acting head of state. The interim president has very limited powers: he can not consult the population by referendum, can not initiate a revision of the Constitution, legislate by order, or dissolve the NPC.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 03-04-2019 16:26:58 ZULU