Algerian leader approves new charter after a November referendum that saw a record low voter turnout.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has signed into law the country’s new constitution, his office said on Friday, months after the document was approved in a referendum that saw a record low voter turnout.

Tebboune, 75, who returned to Algeria only last week after spending two months in Germany where he sought treatment for the coronavirus, has long presented the new charter as meeting the demands of protesters who, in April 2019, forced the departure of his predecessor, Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

But the document received scant support, with less than 15 percent of the population voting in its favour in a November vote overshadowed by the novel coronavirus pandemic and following calls for a boycott.

Demonstrators in the North African country first took to the streets in February 2019 after Bouteflika announced his intention to run for a fifth consecutive term in office, despite his failing health.

Protests, however, continued well after Bouteflika’s departure with the members of the movement, known as the Hirak, demanding a complete overhaul of the political system.

The new constitution was pitched as responding to the demands of the Hirak but keeps in place Algeria’s presidential regime and expands the powers of the army, a central pillar of the state.

Tebboune on Thursday also approved Algeria’s 2021 budget and is hoping to launch an inoculation campaign against the novel coronavirus, using the Sputnik V vaccine produced by its Russian ally as early as this month.

This post first appeared on Aljazeera.com

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