Controversial Candidate Elected To Head Algerian Parliament

Mohammed Al-Arabi Ould Khalifa was recently elected Chairman of the National People’s Assembly. The only candidate for the post, Ould Khalifa won the votes of MPs from the National Liberation Front and the National Rally for Democracy, writes Atef Kedadra. But other parties boycotted the vote or left the government altogether. 

al-monitor Delegates hold up placards during the opening session of the new National Assembly in Algiers May 26, 2012.  Photo by REUTERS/Louafi Larbi.

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ould khalifa, national rally for democracy, khalida toumi, front for national liberation, algerian national people’s assembly

Jun 3, 2012

Mohamed Al-Arabi Ould Khalifa, of the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN), was elected speaker of the new Algerian National People’s Assembly by an overwhelming majority of MPs. Ould Khalifa’s election might be considered a prelude to a potential stepping down of Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, now that the “tribes” [berBers] have guaranteed themselves a spot in power.

MPs from the FLN and the National Rally for Democracy (RND) voted for Ould Khalifa, who was the only candidate at the opening session, held two days ago. MPs from the Green Algeria Bloc withdrew from the parliamentary session, while MPs from the Workers’ Party boycotted the vote. Socialist Forces Front MPs refused to vote, as they thought it was necessary to establish the rules of procedures before electing the chairman of the Assembly.

The 74 year-old Ould Khalifa is the former chairman of the Supreme Council of the Arabic language and a leading member of the FLN. He took several ministerial positions, including the post of minister of culture and folklore (1980-1982) and minister of vocational and secondary education (1982-1984) in the government of Mohammed Bin Ahmed Abdul Ghani. He was also a member of the FLN executive committee between 2005 and 2010.

Ould Khalifa is known as a defender of  the Arabic language, and suggests that French only be used to serve the national interest. He is the seventh president of the National People’s Assembly since the elections of 1977, following Rabah Batat, Abd-El-Aziz Belkhadem, Abdul kadir Bin Saleh, Karim Younes, Amar Saidani and Abdulaziz Zayari.

A few hours separate us from the formation of a new cabinet, and the FLN is trying to bring new parties into it. Sources said that the president of the Algerian Popular Movement (MPA), Amara Benyounes (7 seats), and leaders of the National Republican Alliance such as Belkassem Al-Sahili  (3 seats), are potential members of the future cabinet.

The Movement for the Society of Peace (MSP) decided to pull out from the  government and refused to take part in the new governing body that resulted from the recent elections. However, the MSP  maintains their  participation in parliament within the Green Algeria Bloc. The decision to leave the government has pushed the Algerian government to look for alternatives in order to  reach an equilibrium between national and Islamist movements.

Minister of Public Affairs Ammar Ghoul, member of the MSP, strongly opposed the decision, and will be the next dissident candidate. He was a spectator during the opening parliamentary session as his movement raised signs in parliament on which were written “No To Fraud.” Party members expected Ghoul to adopt the same strategy of the minister of culture [Khalida] Toumi, when she was confronted with a similar situation 10 years ago. Said Saedy, President of The Rally for Culture and Democracy, of which she was a member, decided to leave the coalition government in 2001 [she later severed ties with the party]. It was also reported that Asma Ben Kada, ex-wife of sheikh Youssef Al Karadawi, is one of the FLN’s candidates for the new government.  

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