Opposition MP elected Algeria Parliament chairman

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Algerian lawmakers elected an Islamist opposition figure chairman of parliament under pressure from mass protests demanding the departure of the ruling elite.

Parliament elected Slimane Chenine of the Movement of National Construction party to replace Moad Bouchareb from the National Liberation Front (FLN), which ruled Algeria since independence from France in 1962.

Bouchareb resigned a week ago, three months after Abdelaziz Bouteflika quit as president, also pressurised by demonstrators seeking democratic reforms and government personnel changes.

Chenine (47) is the youngest lawmaker to be elected as head of the National Assembly and his party has 15 of 462 seats in parliament, where the FLN and its coalition partners have an overwhelming majority.

“We have a majority in the assembly but the party decided to contribute to the superior interest over the party’s interest,” FLN lawmakers said in a statement after a meeting with the party leader Mohamed Djemai.

“Due to the current situation in our country, we prefer Algeria over our interests,” said FLN lawmaker Abdelhamid Si Afif.

The National Liberation Front has 160 seats and monopolised the parliament presidency for a long time with the backing of other pro-government political parties.

“We have decided to back Chenine to get out of the crisis and go to fair presidential elections as soon as possible,” said lawmaker Fouad Benmerabet from the Democratic National Rally (RND), the main partner of FLN.

Protesters forced Bouteflika to resign on April 2 after two decades in power and the army is now the main player in Algeria’s politics.

Army chief of staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah repeatedly vowed to meet protesters’ demands including helping the judiciary prosecute officials suspected of involvement in corruption.

Several senior officials including former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyhia and Abdelmalek Sellal are in custody for “dissipation of public funds.”

Protesters demand the resignation of interim president Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, regarded by demonstrators as part of the old guard.

Government postponed a presidential election planned for July 4, citing a lack of candidates. No new date has been set.