Algeria inaugurates new president rejected by protesters

The protesters helped push out Tebboune’s predecessor, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in April after 20 years in power. (File/AFP)
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Updated 19 December 2019

Algeria inaugurates new president rejected by protesters

  • The governing elite hopes Abdelkader Tebboune’s inauguration allows their gas-rich country to turn the page on 10 months of protests
  • He has promised to reach out to the protesters and to fight corruption, a major problem in Africa’s biggest country

ALGIERS, Algeria: After eight months without a leader, Algeria is inaugurating its new president Thursday — a ceremony that pro-democracy protesters are rejecting as a charade.
The governing elite hopes Abdelkader Tebboune’s inauguration allows their gas-rich country to turn the page on 10 months of protests that have thrown their legitimacy into doubt and stalled the economy.
Tebboune, a 74-year-old former prime minister considered close to Algeria’s powerful army chief, was elected last week with 58 percent of the vote in an election boycotted by members of the country’s peaceful protest movement.
He has promised to reach out to the protesters and to fight corruption, a major problem in Africa’s biggest country. Tebboune inherits a large youth population disillusioned with unemployment and out-of-touch rulers, and myriad economic challenges.
The protesters helped push out Tebboune’s predecessor, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in April after 20 years in power, and now they want a whole new power structure. They rejected the election because it was organized by Algeria’s secretive political elite.
Algeria remains a key ally of Western powers fighting terrorism in the region, and foreign dignitaries are expected to attend Thursday’s inauguration in the presidential palace of the capital, Algiers.


Jerusalem’s Palm Sunday march scaled back due to coronavirus

Updated 05 April 2020

Jerusalem’s Palm Sunday march scaled back due to coronavirus

  • Palm Sunday celebrations start the Holy Week leading up to Easter
  • JERUSALEM: A small group of Franciscan monks and Roman Catholic faithful took to the streets of Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter in the Old City Sunday to distribute olive branches after the traditional Palm Sunday procession was canceled due to restrictions

JERUSALEM: A small group of Franciscan monks and Roman Catholic faithful took to the streets of Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter in the Old City Sunday to distribute olive branches after the traditional Palm Sunday procession was canceled due to restrictions imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The march took place as Israel deployed troops to help contain an outbreak in a hard-hit city. Iran, dealing with the worst outbreak in the Mideast, announced plans to allow some businesses to reopen later this month even as the death toll continued to climb. Lebanon, meanwhile, reopened its airport to allow citizens who had been stranded overseas to return home.
Palm Sunday celebrations start the Holy Week leading up to Easter. Worshipers traditionally carry palm fronds and olive branches and march from the top of the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem’s Old City.
While thousands of pilgrims usually participate in the march, this year was limited to a handful of participants. Clerics and faithful went door to door often throwing the branches to Christians looking on from their balconies.
“This year because of the new situation we are trying to come to all the Christians in our Christian Quarter to bring these branches of olives, the sign of new hope,” said the Rev. Sandro Tomasevic, a Catholic clergyman at the Latin Parish of Jerusalem.
Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and is the start of the church’s most solemn week, which includes the Good Friday re-enactment of Jesus’ crucifixion and death and his resurrection on Easter.
In Israel, more than 8,000 people have contracted the coronavirus and 46 have died. In the West Bank, nearly 200 cases have been reported, including a large outbreak in the biblical town of Bethlehem.
The outbreak has forced church officials to close churches to the public and scale back religious observances throughout the week. Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the top Catholic clergyman in the Holy Land, held a small, closed service at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and resurrected.
The coronavirus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, who recover within a few weeks. But it is highly contagious and can be spread by people showing no symptoms. It can cause serious illness and death in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health issues.
Iran has been the hardest-hit nation across the region. Iran state TV reported that an additional 151 people had died, pushing the death toll to 3,603 with over 58,000 confirmed cases.
But the country’s president, Hassan Rouhani, announced that low-risk businesses will be allowed to resume their activities in Tehran on April 18. Businesses in other provinces will begin a week earlier, on April 11, he said during a meeting Saturday. He said government offices would also be able to boost staffing, from one-third to two-thirds of their work force, beginning April 11.
Rouhani said the decision would not contradict a stay-at-home policy and that businesses must still observe health restrictions ordered by the government. High-risk businesses, like pools, gyms and shopping malls will remain closed, he said.
In Lebanon, meanwhile, a jet carrying more than 70 Lebanese citizens who had been stuck in Saudi Arabia after Beirut’s international airport closed nearly three weeks arrived in Lebanon. It marked the beginning of flights that aim to return thousands of Lebanese from around the world. Three more flights are scheduled to arrive later Sunday from the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria and Ivory Coast.
The tiny Mediterranean country has reported 520 cases of coronavirus and 20 deaths since the first case was reported in late February.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab said up to 21,000 people have registered to return home, and the process will take several weeks.
In Israel, the military began an operation in the hard-hit city of Bnei Brak, helping to distribute food and medicine. The government last week put Bnei Brak, home to a large population of ultra-Orthodox religious Jews, under a near closure after an outbreak ravaged the city. Israel’s ultra-Orthodox population has been disproportionately infected after religious leaders played down or ignored warnings to maintain social distance early in the crisis. Meanwhile, a nursing home in the southern city of Beersheba reported its sixth death in recent days.