The newly elected Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune was sworn in Thursday as the Hirak protest movement mulled its response to his offer of dialogue to end the months-long political crisis.
Mounted guards in traditional red tunics, white turbans and hooded cloaks lined the way into the Palais des Nations as Tebboune entered, with Algeria’s flag fluttering overhead.
The 74-year-old Tebboune, a former prime minister who casts himself as a reformer, was elected last week in a vote the opposition regarded as a charade intended to keep the ruling elite in power.
The army saw Thursday’s election as the best way to end 10 months of weekly mass protests that helped oust Tebboune’s predecessor Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April, and restore a political order in which it holds sway.
Demonstrators responded by hitting the streets once again, calling Tebboune “illegitimate.”
Official figures showed 40% of voters took part Thursday as protests and strikes paralyzed some cities and towns, with Tebboune winning 58% of the vote.
State media presented even that low level of turnout as vindicating the decision to hold the election, though with no outside observers monitoring the vote, many Hirak supporters regarded the figures as suspect.
While Tebboune’s period as prime minister ended with his sacking by Bouteflika, protesters see the longtime regime insider as part of the same corrupt system that has ruled Algeria since independence in 1962 – a system they want dismantled.