Algeria's ex-interim president Abdelkader Bensalah dies at 79

Veteran politician and former Bouteflika prodigy passes away after long illness

Veteran Algerian politician Abdelkader Bensalah, who served briefly as interim president after his mentor Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced to resign in 2019, died on Wednesday aged 79, the president's office said.

His death after what friends said was a long illness came only days after that of Bouteflika, who died on Friday at the age of 84.

Bensalah's funeral will be held after noon prayers on Thursday at the El Alia cemetery east of downtown Algiers.

He was speaker of the upper house of Parliament when the army forced Bouteflika to step down after his announcement that he intended to stand for a fifth term triggered mass street protests.

Under the constitution, that made Bensalah interim president but his close relations with Bouteflika led to protesters gathering in their thousands to oppose his elevation to the top job.

Bensalah decided not to run in the eventual election for a permanent successor, and he handed over to its winner Abdelmadjid Tebboune after only eight months as acting president.

Even before Bouteflika's resignation, Bensalah had frequently stood in for the ailing president, who was rarely seen in public after a stroke in 2013.

In his youth, Bensalah fought in Algeria's independence struggle, then worked as a state media journalist for a decade before being elected to Parliament in 1977.

He chaired the lower house's foreign affairs committee for 10 years and went on to serve as ambassador to Saudi Arabia and a foreign ministry spokesman.

It was Bouteflika himself who named his protege speaker of the upper house in 2002, a post Bensalah was to hold for the next 17 years.

Updated: September 22nd 2021, 1:08 PM
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