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
ALGIERS (Reuters) – Algeria’s interior ministry has issued licenses for 10 new political parties, private Ennahar TV said on Wednesday, after a newly-appointed interim president vowed to organize free elections in the face of growing calls for democracy.
Protesters in Algeria, a major oil and natural gas producer, have been demanding sweeping changes since unrest which erupted on Feb. 22 prompted long-serving, 82-year-old leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign.
On Tuesday, parliament named upper house chairman Abdelkader Bensalah as caretaker president, a move swiftly rejected by protesters who say they cannot accept any figures from the old guard under the National Liberation Front (FLN) that has dominated Algeria since independence from France in 1962.
Allowing new political parties suggests some flexibility by the Algerian authorities, who have faced weeks of protests demanding immediate steps to introduce democratic reforms including political pluralism.
Bensalah said late on Tuesday he would organize elections that are expected to be held within 90 days.
The military, which has held sway over Algerian politics from behind the scenes for decades, is expected to help guide a potentially volatile transition.
Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Mark Heinrich