Skip to main content

Intel: How the death of its army chief opens new era in Algeria’s politics

Algeria’s longtime army chief died of a heart attack Dec. 23, further upending a sclerotic political system already reeling from the departure of its longtime strongman president in April.
Algerian army's Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah attends newly elected Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune's swearing-in ceremony in Algiers, Algeria December 19, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina - RC2DYD9KN4W8

Algeria’s longtime army chief died of a heart attack Dec. 23, further upending a sclerotic political system already reeling from the departure of its longtime strongman president in April.

Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah, 79, was one of the last remaining veterans of the war of independence against France. As army chief of staff since 2004, he was among a secretive group known simply as “le pouvoir” that made all the important decisions in Algeria’s nominally democratic system.

Why it matters: Gaid Salah played a key role in a tumultuous year for Algeria, invoking a constitutional provision to force out President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as mass protests against his bid for a fifth term threatened to topple the entire political system. As the de facto leader for the following few months, Gaid Salah resisted demands for deep political reforms and pushed for a new presidential election resisted by millions of Algerians pressing to first dismantle the regime.

His unexpected death could empower newly elected President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to tackle democratic reforms, or it could prompt a hardening by the ruling elites. In his first presidential speech last week, Tebboune, 74, pledged to introduce presidential term limits and invite more young people into politics, while singling out Gaid Salah for his role in “protecting the country.”

What’s next: Algiers has announced three days of mourning. Gaid Salah has been replaced as acting army head by Gen. Said Chengriha, head of Algeria’s land forces.

Tebboune named Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum as interim prime minister and Housing Minister Kamel Beljoud as interior minister on Friday as he continues to assemble his government.

Know more: Make sure to read Ghada Hamrouche on how Bouteflika’s departure transformed the army from arbiter to central player in Algerian politics and how Gaid Salah pushed through a presidential election few wanted.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Already a Member? Sign in

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial