Political Meltdown in Algeria as President Appoints New Prime Minister

Algeria is in the midst of a new political meltdown, with the sacking of the Prime Minister Abdelmajid Tebboune who was replaced by the regime’s henchman Ahmed Ouyahya.

Characterized by opacity, the Algerian regime is facing a new turmoil. Three months after the living-dead President Abdelaziz Bouteflika appointed Tebboune, the latter was dismissed after showing divergences with the Presidential clan concerning a set of economic policies.

Tebboune’s crackdown on corrupt businessmen with vested interest with leaders of the Algerian regime is the main reason for his dismissal. On July 2, he reportedly signed an order urging his ministers to examine contracts signed late in the term of his predecessor Sellal. This action stirred a row between him and Ali Haddad, a businessman turning in the orbit of the President’s brother, Said Bouteflika.

Haddad, who controls the giant ETRHB Haddad construction company, won a number of government contracts while Sellal was in office, and is a key figure in the pro-liberalization and pro-business wings of the Algerian political system.

Tebboune’s anti-corruption measures brought upon him the wrath of the Presidential clan, led by the President’s brother, Said, who is apparently pulling the strings of the Algerian Presidency.

The President who has not made a public address in years, was said to have criticized Tebboune’s actions against businessmen, which ultimately resulted in his removal.

In choosing Ouyahya, the Government makes the bet of maintaining the status quo of regime opacity and economic clientelism. Ouyahya’s return to the position of prime minister, which he held three times before, completes his political comeback ahead of elections in 2019 after he was sidelined when Sellal was Prime Minister.

Known as the politician who does dirty work for the regime, Ouyahya’s tenure as Prime Minister was marred by scandals and violence. He first came to office in 1990s when Algeria was mired in a bloody civil war. In 2008, he campaigned to amend the constitution to suppress the two presidential term limits in favor of Bouteflika.

The removal of Tebboune and the appointment of Ouyahya also mirrors the crack at the helm of the Algerian regime as the President’s brother continues to strengthen his grip on power behind the curtain.

Said Bouteflika who has vested interests with the business community and who is said to take major decisions in place of the ailing President is now more than ever showing his intention of succeeding to his brother through media outlets that turn in his orbit.

For many observers, the election of Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a fourth term is a time buying measure for the vying elites within the Algerian regime to settle their differences and agree on a next President.

The removal of the all-powerful intelligence chief, Tewfik Mediene, in 2014 and the sidelining of senior leaders in the army and the ruling party, the FLN, have all but empowered the clan of Said Bouteflika, who seems now poised more than ever to run for presidential elections.

Through it all, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has remained silent, communicating through occasional letters to the government, leaving even those closest to him to wonder who is really in command or who is pulling the strings?

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