Magharebia (Washington DC)

Algeria: President Reshuffles Cabinet

Algiers — Just months ahead of the Algerian presidential elections, Abdelaziz Bouteflika made key changes to his cabinet on Wednesday (September 11th).

Under the reshuffle announced by President Bouteflika, General Ahmed Gaid Salah will serve as both deputy defence minister and army chief.

Constitutional Council Chairman Tayeb Belaiz replaces Dahou Ould Kablia as interior minister. Ramtane Lamamra is the new foreign minister, while Tayeb Louh swaps his labour ministry position for the justice portfolio.

Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal retains his post.

In his first statement after the cabinet reshuffle, Prime Minister Sellal said that the move was intended to spark new dynamism for projects on President Bouteflika's platform.

Opposition parties, however, said the decision was meaningless.

According to National Liberation Front (FLN) Secretary-General Amar Saïdani, the new cabinet was "a government of technocrats" with field men appointed to lead a number of ministries and make Bouteflika's reforms a success.

Movement of Society for Peace (MSP) chief Abderezzak Mokri said on his Facebook page that rather than a cabinet change, the country really needed political reforms, good governance and free and fair elections.

"It is a repetition of previous lists because the governments are not the result of correct elections and are away from popular legitimacy," commented Djahid Younsi, secretary-general of the El-Islah movement.

For Algeria's Ennahda party, the reshuffle was a marginal measure away from the real political change that the people desired, especially as it kept ministers who have failed in running their sectors.

Citizens want a transparent, credible presidential election, the Islamist party added.

Meanwhile, most political and media analyses focused on President Bouteflika's decision to appoint his army chief, General Ahmed Gaid Salah, as deputy defence minister.

According to journalist Mohamed Adnan, Salah's new role aims to further other recent decisions by the president, including placing the army's intelligence and security departments under the command of the chief of staff.

Noting the growing instability in Libya and Tunisia, the reporter suggested that the president sought "to appoint a confidante to run security affairs at a time when security threats are mounting on the border", Adnan said.

"Before that appointment, President Bouteflika received the army commander in more than one occasion and tasked him with securing the Algerian border before appointing him as deputy defence minister," he told Magharebia.

"Bouteflika has kept such a post for himself in recent years, but this time opted to give it to a confidante, the army's chief of staffs, who is responsible for running all security operations against terrorist groups," he said.

Naming Gaid Salah as deputy defence minister gave Bouteflika's confidante "broad and exceptional powers, thus consolidating Salah's political and military standing", Ennahar said.

The newspaper linked the appointment to "successes made" in recent years, especially the Algerian military intervention to end the terrorists' siege at the In Amenas gas complex last January.

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