CAIRO – Algerian lawmakers have elected a reputedly moderate Islamist political figure as their new parliament speaker to replace the veteran ruling party loyalist, who recently stepped down. Slimane Chenine was elected amid friction between the military and parts of the opposition movement, as efforts intensify to widen national dialogue talks aimed at easing tensions and electing a new president.
The new Algerian speaker of parliament, Slimane Chenine, received a round of applause from lawmakers after expressing his support for both the country’s popular uprising and its armed forces.
He said that at this critical juncture in the nation’s history, he expresses his own support and that of all of his colleagues for Algeria’s peaceful popular uprising, in addition to expressing support and pride for the nation’s armed forces.
Chenine, a fairly well-known Islamist politician, is the first person in the country’s history to be elected parliament speaker without being a member of the ruling FLN (Front de liberation nationale) party.
The FLN’s secretary-general, Mohammed Jamaie, told a news conference that both he and his colleagues were willing to support someone from an opposition party in the interest of the country.
He said that the FLN has its guiding principles, among the most and least important of us, and that all of the party members believe in putting the country above partisan interests, and important sounding titles.
“All we care for, is the best interests of the country, its stability and its future,” he said.
Algeria’s interim president, Abdelkader Bensalah, whose constitutional mandate officially expired on Tuesday, continues to exercise his authority, and spoke several days ago about the importance of bringing all main opposition figures to the national dialogue talks, which began on July 6.
He said that dialogue is of the utmost importance, since it is no doubt the best way to arrive at a consensual agreement needed to resolve a wide-range of differences, especially over holding a presidential election.
Ailing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down at the beginning of April, following weeks of heavy pressure from protesters, who still gather in the capital and other parts of the country, every Friday.
Abdelaziz Rahabi, a former communications minister who was recently tapped to head the country’s “national dialogue,” says the talks are imperative in seeking a political consensus.
He said that a broad dialogue must take place among all parties in order to exit the current political impasse via peaceful and consensual means that meet the aspirations of the people and their popular uprising.
Analyst Abdel-Karim Tafrqanit told Arab media that top political figures have been asked to join the national dialogue talks which are expected to gain momentum.
He said that well-known figures have been contacted by interim authorities, and that the new (Islamist) parliament speaker could play an key role in mediating among opposing parties.
Friction among Army Chief of Staff Ahmed Gaid Salah and some opposition parties threatens to prolong the current stalemate. Some parties are calling for the military to withdraw from the political arena and hand power to a civilian administration. Salah, however, blasted calls for civilian rule, branding them a “poisoned chalice.”