Friday, 21 January 2011

It is unclear what the Algerian regime will do

In view of the riots in Algeria, it is widely believed that the EU, some of its member states, and the US will ask the MENA states to 'make changes'. Indeed, it is widely believed that the visit of President Barack Obama's counter-terrorism advisor, John Brennan, to Algiers on 17th January was not really to discuss the US position on ransom payments to al-Qa'ida, as stated in the media, but to give a message to the Algerian regime “that it must do something”.

The US and EU are both frightened by the prospect of Islamists coming to power in any of the North African States. They, therefore, want sufficient change to prevent an outcome reminiscent of the FIS' victory of in 1991-1992.

It remains unclear what the Algerian regime might do. Having discussed the situation with both the opposition Rachad and our other sources in Algeria, we can proffer the following:

The regime has received a huge warning. It is weakened, frightened and unable to deliver the changes that are required. There are also signs that the Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité (DRS) itself is uncertain, and probably divided on what actions to take.

The most likely immediate action is that both President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia will be replaced; in Bouteflika's case on health grounds, and in Ouyahia's on purely 'political reshuffling'. The names of both Mouloud Hamrouche, whom we reported as being approached by the DRS two weeks ago and Ahmed Benbitour are in the frame, probably for President and Prime Minister, respectively. We do not know whether they will accept or whether others are also being considered.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2010 Menas Associates

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