New Algerian premier promises broad government, urges dialogue

New Algerian premier promises broad government, urges dialogue
(Reuters) - Algeria’s new prime minister said on Thursday he would form a temporary government of technocrats and others to work toward political change in response to weeks of street protests, and he urged the opposition to join in a dialogue.

Noureddine Bedoui laid out his plans at a news conference in Algiers three days after ailing President Abelaziz Bouteflika announced his decision not to run for a fifth term that would have extended his 20 years in power.

Bouteflika’s move came after tens of thousands of Algerians staged demonstrations demanding an overhaul of a political system dominated by veterans of the 1954-62 war of independence against colonial power France.

He delayed elections set for April and said a national conference would be held to discuss reforms.

However, Bouteflika stopped short of stepping down and many activists fear his move may be a ruse in a country where authorities have a long history of manipulating the opposition.

“Algerians were expecting Bedoui to provide answers, which he did not,” Hassen Zitouni, 25, a young protestor, told Reuters.

“This government will have a short period, and its role is to be the support for the national conference and what Algerians agree upon,” the former interior minister said.

It would be technocratic but also include young Algerians involved in the protest movement, including women, said Bedoui, 60.

“The make-up will be one that represents all the forces and especially the youthful ones of the sons and daughters of our nation, so that we can meet the aspirations that the Algerian citizen expressed.”

Independent analyst Farid Ferhi was not convinced. “It’s like putting gasoline on fire. Demonstrators are unhappy and they will show it on Friday.”

The peaceful protests have been unrelenting, with the biggest gatherings held on Fridays. The military has said it would not tolerate chaos but soldiers have stayed in the barracks. Security forces have been mostly restrained.