Could Algerian Security Changes be Linked to Bouteflika's Re-Election?

Published February 14th, 2019 - 10:00 GMT
Supporters of Algeria's National Liberation Front (FLN) party, gather at La Coupole arena in the capital Algiers on February 9, 2019. (AFP/ File Photo)
Supporters of Algeria's National Liberation Front (FLN) party, gather at La Coupole arena in the capital Algiers on February 9, 2019. (AFP/ File Photo)

Algerian President Abdulaziz Bouteflika sacked on Wednesday national security chief Mustapha Lahbiri, replacing him with Abdelkader Kara Bouhadba, head of the judicial police.

A statement from the presidency did not provide a reason for the dismissal.

Lahbiri was appointed in June 2018 to succeed Abdelghani Hamel, who was also fired after eight years in his post. No reason for his sacking was disclosed either.

The development took place soon after Bouteflika announced over the weekend his intention to seek a fifth term in office during the April 18 presidential elections.

The move sparked condemnation among opposition parties.

On Wednesday, head of the opposition Mouwatana movement, Soufiane Djilali called for rallies to protest Bouteflika’s nomination.

“Mouwatana has long rejected the worst case scenario (Bouteflika’s nomination) and has done what it could to prevent it given its unconstitutionality,” he told a press conference.

He therefore, declared that he was determined to launch a “peaceful resistance against this fifth term that is being imposed on the Algerians. This resistance will continue its struggle even after April 18.”

He described as “very dangerous” the insistence to hold the 2019 elections in order to maintain the current regime.

“Such a move condemns the Algerians to despair and feeds the internal division within the nation,” Djilali said.

“The Algerians have been sentenced to life to being deprived of their sovereignty,” he lamented.

He set the protest date for February 24.

Bouteflika, 81, who has been in office since 1999 but has been seen in public only rarely since suffering a stroke in 2013 that confined him to a wheelchair, is likely to win a fifth term given the wide support he enjoys in parliament.

Serious doubts have been raised about the ailing president’s ability to perform his constitutional duties soon after his election.

Head of the presidency’s legal authority, lawyer Farouk Ksentini said that the constitution does not obligate the winning candidate to read the full oath of office.

He recalled how in 1995 head of the supreme court had read the oath on behalf of elected president Liamine Zeroual.

Many have also questioned Bouteflika’s ability to physically head to the constitutional council to assume his duties.

They recalled how he had difficulty performing this act in 2014 and his health has been deteriorating since then. Moreover, they noted how he had great difficulty in delivering his acceptance speech back then, only managing a few lines before stopping.

Discussions are underway among in the president’s circle to possibly skip these constitutional steps to avoid embarrassing Bouteflika before millions of Algerians in the country and abroad.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

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