ALGIERS — THE man named to preside over a new council of state to lead Algeria in the absence of elected leaders was expected to return today after nearly three decades in exile in Morocco.
Mohamed Boudiaf, a hero from Algeria's war of independence from France and a former vice president in the country's wartime provisional government, was named Tuesday night to head a five-member "collegial presidency" to run the country until elections are called.
In naming the council of state, the Army-backed High Security Council, in power since President Chadli Benjedid resigned Saturday, set no date for presidential elections but said the new executive body would hold office "until conditions necessary for the normal functioning of institutions and constitutional order" are achieved.
The security council did specify, however, that the appointed executive's mandate would not last beyond December 1993, the end of former President Benjedid's legal mandate.
Two important questions hanging over the country are the place in the country's new power structure of Prime Minister Sid Ahmed Ghozali and the public reception of Mr. Boudiaf.
The new council is clearly meant as an interim presidency designed to reduce Algeria's chronic political turmoil. In that light several political observers say that Mr. Ghozali, who retains his ministerial functions and enjoys support from the military leadership as well as a wide spectrum of the population, is being "reserved" for presidential elections.
As for Boudiaf, it remains to be seen how Algerians, who will need a leader who can speak to them and explain the country's extraordinary political situation, will respond to a man who has not been in the country for decades.
Other members of the new council of state are Defense Minister Khaled Nezzar; Human Rights Minister Ali Harroun; Ali Kafi, president of the national organization of mujahideen, the independence war veterans; and Haddam Tedjini, rector of the Paris mosque.
The council's makeup clearly is meant to respond not only to the principal concerns in Algeria in the wake of the country's aborted democratization process, but also to find a wide enough favor among the Algerian people to make a stable, extended period without presidential or legislative elections possible.
The single-party national parliament was dissolved after the first round of the country's first multiparty national elections on Dec. 26 and before the anticipated second round, which had been set for today.
The Army forced Benjedid to resign because it was unhappy with the president's accommodation of Islamic fundamentalists after their overwhelming victory in the December vote. Citing widespread election irregularities and a risk of grave civil instability, the High Security Council replacing Benjedid then canceled the elections' second round.
Politically Algeria is dominated by three blocks: Islamic fundamentalists largely embodied by the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), the country's strongest political organization; supporters of the entrenched but largely discredited National Liberation Front (FLN), the party that has run the country for nearly three decades; and the "democrats," including FLN reformists, various political parties, and a collection of rights organizations that favor the move to democracy and a market economy. Each group's pr iorities are meant to be represented in the new council of state, but it remained unclear yesterday whether the handpicked representatives would indeed be accepted by their supporters.
At a press conference here yesterday, FLN General-Secretary Abdelhamid Mehri criticized actions of the High Security Council, including creation of the council of state, calling it "outside the constitutional framework."
FIS leaders gave no new indications of their thinking following the new council's appointment, although a statement earlier Tuesday called on FIS militants to remain calm. Many observers here believe the widely attended Friday sermons of the country's imams, some of whom have been given to fiery rhetoric in recent weeks, will be the next real sign of the movement's sentiments.