Middle East

Algeria's first post-Bouteflika leader dies aged 79

FILE PHOTO: Algerian upper house chairman Abdelkader Bensalah is pictured after being appointed as interim president by Algeria's parliament, following the resignation of Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algiers, Algeria April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina/File Photo

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

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

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

Bensalah was speaker of the upper house of parliament when the army forced Bouteflika to resign in April 2019 after his announcement that he intended to stand for a fifth term triggered mass street protests.

Under the constitution, that made him interim president but his close relations with Bouteflika saw protesters gather 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 just eight months as president.

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

In his youth, Bensalah fought in Algeria's independence struggle and 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 he was to hold for the next 17 years.

 

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