ALGIERS, 24 February 2021 – A 90-year-old veteran of Algeria’s struggle for independence from France, Salah Goudjil, was Wednesday elected speaker of the Algerian National Assembly.
Goudjil received the votes of 126 members of parliament, with only one abstention.
He replaces Abdelkader Bensalah as speaker of the Council of the Nation, Algeria’s upper house of parliament.
In a speech after his election, Goudjil renewed his commitment to and belief in democracy.
“I have always been seeking to uphold democracy,” he told fellow parliamentarians, pledging to steer the assembly towards “the reform path” launched by Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
Goudjil, who is a former minister of transport, started his first term in parliament in 2013.
The Council of the Nation was established in 1996 in keeping with a constitutional amendment that gave it institutional life.
While the Council has very limited legislative powers, its speaker is the second in command and second in line of succession to the president.
The speaker deputizes for the president and, according to the constitution, would replace the president, assuming the role of interim president, in the event of illness, death, or resignation of the president.
Bensalah served briefly as Algerian interim president beginning on 2 April 2019 after mass street protests by the “Hirak” – Arabic for “movement” – forced former president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, to step down after 20 years of rule.
Bensalah remained in power until Tebboune was elected and assumed the presidency on 19 December 2019.
Goudjil’s election follows the decision last week by President Tebboune to dissolve the National People’s Assembly, the lower house of parliament.
Tebboune called for early parliamentary elections, to be held on a date not yet announced.
He also reshuffled his government and issued presidential pardons leading to the release of dozens of democracy activists and journalists from prison.
The moves are seen as part of Tebboune’s efforts to starve off mobilization for massive street protests which have been called for and effectively resumed nationwide on the second anniversary of the “Hirak” last February 22.
On Tuesday, Algerian students defied police to demonstrate in the capital, Algiers, a day after major protests were organized Monday to mark the second anniversary of mass anti-government rallies in 2019.
“We are students and not terrorists,” some students chanted, as others loudly voiced their support for “A free and democratic Algeria”.
Organizers say the protests are back from the sabbatical the outbreak of the new coronavirus forced their organizers and participants to take.
“Hirak” organizers say they will not rest until sweeping reforms overhaul Algeria’s governing system awsay from the foundations of colonization which they claim have remained in place despite the end in 1962 of colonial rule by France.