Algerian President Announces Cabinet Reshuffle

Article Summary
Recently back from a prolonged medical leave, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been swift to make changes to his government that seem to specifically put his opponents at a disadvantage.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has resumed political activity after an illness incapacitated him for months, following speculations about the future of his regime. Moreover, in a rare step, the Algerian presidency announced a major cabinet reshuffle to take place concurrently with Bouteflika's mediation between Tunisia’s Ennahda and its opponents.

Following this reshuffle, Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ahmed Kaid Saleh was appointed deputy defense minister — a position previously held by Bouteflika himself — while the majority of the National Liberation Front (FLN) ministers were removed from their posts. These latter individuals had seemingly expressed their opposition to the continuation of Bouteflika’s presidency.

On a different note, Beji Caid Essebsi, the head of Nidaa Tounes, arrived in Algeria on Sept. 11 for a meeting with Bouteflika. This is the second meeting between the Algerian president and a Tunisian official over the last two days, with Bouteflika receiving Ennahda head Rachid Ghannouchi on Sept. 10. These meetings represent Bouteflika’s first interactions with foreign officials since he fell ill, a period that left him unable to carry out any official activity for more than four months.

According to Algerian and Tunisian sources, Algeria is trying to bridge the gap in viewpoints between Ghannouchi and Essebsi. This endeavor falls within the scope of Bouteflika’s earlier commitment to help the political parties in Tunisia reach a solution to the ongoing crisis plaguing their country.

Algeria’s approval to play a mediatory role reflects the Algerian authority’s unique perspective on the Tunisian issue. Moreover, Algeria has confidence in both parties to the conflict, despite rumors that the Algerian regime is concerned about Islamist currents.

Algeria is showing unprecedented flexibility in dealing with Ghannouchi, who has been received by Bouteflika twice. Meanwhile, Essebsi has a special relationship with Bouteflika dating back to the years of the Algerian revolution against French colonialism. The latter still calls Bouteflika by his revolutionary name, Abdul Qader.

This coincides with radical internal changes introduced by Bouteflika to Abdelmalek Sellal’s government and to the security agencies affiliated with the intelligence service. Saleh was named deputy minister of defense. The African Union's Commissioner for Peace and Security Ramtane Lamamra was appointed foreign minister, replacing Mourad Medelci, while Tayeb Belaiz, who heads the constitutional council, was appointed interior minister.

On the other hand, Bouteflika removed three FLN ministers from the cabinet. The latter had openly expressed their support for Ali Benflis as a possible candidate in the upcoming presidential elections.

The former head of the Regulatory Authority for Post and Telecommunications (ARPT), Zahra Dardouri, was appointed minister of post, information technologies and communication, replacing Moussa Benhamadi. Moreover, Abdelmalek Boudiaf, the governor of the Oran province, was appointed minister of health to replace Abdelaziz Ziari.

Bouteflika also replaced Transport Minister Amar Tou with current Minister of Public Works Amar Ghoul. Bouteflika further appointed Environment Minister Amara Benyounes to replace Cherif Rahmani, who was removed from the cabinet, while Abdelmadjid Tebboune kept his post as minister of housing and urbanism.

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