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Algeria's new parliament takes office

Algerian independent MP Brahim Boughali speaks after he was elected the president of Algeria's parliament, during an official ceremony at the People's National Assembly   -  
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RYAD KRAMDI/AFP or licensors


**Independent former doctor and public health official Brahim Boughali takes the role of president of Algerias's 407-seat lower house, with 295 votes. **

The new parliament took office following June elections marked by record abstentionism amid boycott calls by the Hirak mass protest movement.

The 57-year-old beat Ahmed Sadok from the Islamist MSP party, who took just 87 votes.

The June 12 elections were marked by record abstentionism amid boycott calls by the Hirak mass protest movement.

The poll was won by the National Liberation Front (FLN), which ruled Algeria for decades under a one-party system following its 1962 independence from France.

But the FLN's majority was reduced and it now holds 98 seats, while independents hold 84 and the MSP has 65.

There are only 35 women in the new legislature, after a quota system was scrapped.

"There are many challenges," FLN deputy Zoheir Naceri told AFP. "The first is to revamp the legislature, which was mutilated because of previous practices."

Naceri admitted that his party, associated with the corrupt and autocratic rule of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was partly responsible for the electorate's lack of enthusiasm for politics.

Bouteflika resigned after mass Hirak protests against his rule in 2019.

The movement continued to stage rallies demanding deep reforms, until they were snuffed out by the coronavirus pandemic, and a revived movement has faced an intensified government crackdown in recent months.

"We must restore trust between the people and the government," said Abderrahmane Salhi, from the Moustakbal Front, allied with the FLN.

Algeria's new government, led by Prime Minister Aimene Benabderahmane but largely made up of old faces, also started work Thursday a day after being sworn in.

They face huge challenges as the country is roiled by social and economic crises exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

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